Fort Smith plans to renovate its community and recreation centre over the coming year and a half, a $4-million project that includes shifting the location of some services.
In March, a report from the Taylor Architecture Group (TAG) concluded the library should move to the recreation centre’s second floor while fitness facilities should be grouped in the basement.
Alongside the library relocation and recreation centre upgrades, updates are expected to Fort Smith’s town hall and fire hall so they meet current fire and building codes.
The recreation centre was built in 1996 and a pool was added in 2007. The library is 50 years old.
The Town of Fort Smith has now issued requests for proposals for the work.
The deadline to file proposals is June 6 and the Town hopes to award the contract by June 15. Work is expected to be finished by the end of 2021.
In its report, TAG states “reconfiguring the recreation centre, increased use of the basement, and provision of storage for programmed spaces would facilitate additional usage of these rooms and create a more efficient space.”
Opening up the building would increase the area for programs and create room for a 400 square metre library without building an addition, TAG argues.
A three-storey atrium will allow more natural light to enter the building, which TAG says will “create a feeling of connection for both the users and staff,” improve wayfinding, and make supervision of the three floors easier for staff.
Housing the library in the recreation centre would give the library more space for additional computers and stack space, TAG believes, and would likely increase the number of library users and hours of operation for the library.
Before the pandemic, the library was open for few hours in the afternoon, closed for supper, and then open again from 7-9pm on most weekdays. On weekends, it was only open in the afternoon.
Fitness facilities move
The recreation centre’s second floor and basement currently both have fitness rooms. TAG suggests the upstairs weight room be moved to the basement.
The curling lounge, which TAG calls an “under-utilized space,” may double as a theatre on the second floor following the renovations. With the original theatre moved out of the basement, there will be room to house a fitness studio that currently exists on the first floor.
On the first floor, the daycare will replace the fitness studio under TAG’s plans and the party room will be moved to the multi-purpose room. A storage wall will separate the two rooms, so the daycare can use the party room when it’s not in use, while user groups on both sides will have access to storage space.
Meanwhile, the craft room will remain as is. The existing daycare room will become available space.
On the first floor of the recreation centre, across from the current daycare, there is a “seldomly used seniors’ room” which is rented out. The architects suggest that could be modified to accommodate more user groups. (After this article was first published, the Fort Smith Seniors’ Society told Cabin Radio it contested the architects’ description of the room as seldomly used. The society said this was inaccurate and the room was used many times each month, for a range of activities and groups. “If TAG had desired accurate statistics, it could have asked us,” the society said in a letter distributed to councillors.)
Finally, TAG is proposing the male and female changerooms for the gym and pool “be converted into one large, gender-neutral changing room with individual changing stalls and washroom facilities.”
The architects suggest making the steam room and sauna available outside regular pool hours.
The Town has asked for a vehicle charging station in the parking lot and independent temperature control in all rooms.
The plans as set out by the architects may change once contracts are awarded.
At a committee meeting earlier this month, Smith said there would be opportunities for the public to provide input. He said no firm decisions had been made other than those related to the library and daycare.
Above: The existing floor plan of Fort Smith’s community and recreation centre. Click for an expanded view.
Below: The architects’ proposed floor plan. Click for an expanded view.