The decision to replace the aging four-court tennis bubble, located directly behind the Oak Bay Recreation Centre, with another bubble has moved one member of the Oak Bay Recreation Commission to speak out against the move.
In an open letter to Oak Bay’s mayor and council, Brian Yellin said the move means that Oak Bay will lose a “once in a generation opportunity” to improve the facility through the construction of a permanent tennis structure.
“The life expectancy for the replacement bubble is 25 years,” said Yellin. “By making this move, we’ll be stuck with an environmentally unfriendly, inferior facility for that long before we get a chance to replace it. It’s utter nonsense.”
Although consideration had been given to a permanent structure, according to Mayor Nils Jensen, this is not the time to build it.
“In order to replace it with a permanent structure, it would have to be relocated in terms of space and to tie in with the plan to eventually day-light Bowker Creek,” said Jensen. “We’d have to look at other locations.”
Jensen said the decision is in line with the report of the recreation commission whose recommendation appeared in the commission’s September minutes and were subsequently approved in October. He maintained that it’s the right decision for the moment. “We’ve already committed funds to the Neighbourhood Learning Centre and the community theatre,” he said. “Now is not the time to undertake another significant project of this kind.”
“I don’t buy that argument,” said Yellin. He said that the recreation commission only recommended the replacement of the tennis bubble because council had made its wishes clear on the matter prior to the recommendation being made. “It’s no use having a commission if it’s not to provide sober second thought to council,” he said. Yellin has decided not to let his name stand for a second one year term on the commission when his current term expires in the new year.
Monte Holding, the Chair of the Oak Bay Recreation Commission denies that either the mayor or council pressured the commission to reach its decision. “Of course it’s important to understand the big picture of council’s priorities and policies,” he said. “But we are always free to recommend whatever we want.”
Ray Herman, Director of Parks and Recreation, who sits in an advisory position on the recreation commission, concurs. It was his report to the commission that formed the basis for their recommendations. “We received no direction, were not pressured in any way to come up with this recommendation. Council and the commission have a great working relationship,” he said.
Despite Yellin’s concerns, Jensen stands by the decision. “It’s just the right recommendation and the right decision at this time. We have the approximately $410,000 set aside in a reserve for the replacement so it will have no impact on taxation. Compare that with a permanent structure that would run upward of $2.5 million for a bare bones structure.”
The request for proposals for the replacement has not yet been issued, but Jensen anticipates the replacement will go ahead in September 2013.