• Burnaby Beacon
  • Posts
  • Burnaby Lake Recreation Complex moves ahead despite $240.9M price tag

Burnaby Lake Recreation Complex moves ahead despite $240.9M price tag

“Price still seems ridiculously high,” mayor said before council approved the project

The Burnaby Lake Recreation Complex project is proceeding after all, despite delays and a change in the design company and overall cost. Burnaby residents can look forward to a new 10-lane, 50-metre pool, a family hot tub, and an NHL-sized arena, but not before the spring of 2027. Council will approve the design build contract award in April 2024, and pre-construction work will start in the spring of 2024. 

While the new complex promises many new recreational and sports facilities, the latest iteration of the design comes with a hefty price tag of $240.9M. Funding for the project will come from the Community Benefit Bonus Reserve. The original firm contracted for the design was Hughes Condon Marler Architects (HCMA), but council voted to change it to a design-build contract with the firm Ventana Construction Corporation (VCC) in its Aug. 28, 2023 meeting to reduce costs.  

Map of the complex. Photo: City of Burnaby

On Monday, Dec. 11, Isabelle Taillon, recreation manager for parks recreation and culture and Raymond Afan senior project manager from civic buildings at lands and facilities presented the latest two options for the project. Option one, which was the staff-recommended option, is the one with the higher cost of $240.9M, while option two, would cost an estimated $187M. 

“It is worth noting that the difference between options one and two is the construction phasing of the NHL-sized arena at a future date. With option two, Burnaby Lake Arena will keep operating until its end of life,” Taillon said. 

According to the report presented to council, option one will include: 

  • 50m pool with 10 lanes 

  • Diving tower and boards 

  • Combined leisure and six-lane 25m pool 

  • NHL-sized arena 

  • Combined surface and underground parking 

  • Pedestrian crossing to connect to the Christine Sinclair Community Centre 

  • Allowance for green energy for pool heating 

  • Space allocation for a future outdoor pool 

The new option one design represents cost savings from the previous design from August 2023 due to the merging of the leisure pool with the 25m pool. 

While the councillors and mayor expressed concerns about the cost of the project, they all voted to proceed with it. Coun. Pietro Calendino said, “I’m looking at the recommendation and I’m looking at the price tag: it doesn’t please me at all. I’m sure you’ve done a lot of work to bring it down from what we had a few months ago and it did but the reduction in cost seems to be obtained mainly by a reduction in scope where we’re not getting the same amount of aquatic space and other spaces that we had in the last proposal. To me it’s not a reduction in cost per square foot at all.” He added that he would like the project to go ahead because the city has been waiting for it for a long time. 

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal commented on the plan to scrap the rebuilding of the Burnaby Lake Arena for option two, saying, “To me that is not acceptable. I think Burnaby Lake Arena has been on its last leg for a long time. It’s very expensive to maintain, it’s subpar and will cause further disruption.” Dhaliwal added that the project should not be delayed any more and should proceed and get shovels in the ground as soon as possible. 

“The last costs we got were very unacceptable to us and we’re at a place now where the price still seems ridiculously high, but knowing what’s out there I think it’s in line with what others are paying,” Mayor Mike Hurley said. “The important thing for me is that we get on with this building and get it done.” He called the last cost estimate “ridiculous” adding that he thinks that option one is the best option and that work needs to start on the project because the city is short on swimming pools.

Original design rendering by HCMA. Photo: HCMA

To avoid future cost issues with similar projects, Calendino brought forth a motion that council establish an external advisory panel to review and advise on design and construction cost estimates of Burnaby's major civic projects. 

“I would like to commend the staff for all the work that they do, but I don’t believe that they have the expertise of cost of construction or cost of design and they can correct me if I’m wrong. The reason I'm bringing this motion forward is so we can have people in those fields to be able to advise if a design is fine for this type of project or if it's over-designed or overbuilt because of design. And generally we’re faced with this huge cost because they’re usually overdesigned. I think we can have a more simple, more practical type of design. I think it might be beneficial in regards to the cost,” Calendino said. 

According to the staff presentation, the timeline for the project is that the initial pre-construction work will begin in 2024, and it is expected to be operational in the spring of 2027.  

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

Like what you just read? Do you support local journalism? Help us keep going—and growing.

Sign up for our once a week newsletter, or become an Insider to show your love for local reporters and writers.