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Planners offer more ideas for Belmont uses |

Planners offer more ideas for Belmont uses

| Tuesday, March 6, 2007 12:00 a.m

WEST KITTANNING — While community members were focusing on adding activities to the Belmont Complex, a recreation planning firm was eying ways to lower expenses at the county-owned facility.

At a public meeting last night to present its draft feasibility study, planners recommended upgrading the ice rink portion of the complex by first replacing the cooling tower and refrigeration units and by making changes to the configuration of the building itself.

“We recommend reconfiguring the offices, along with the possible combination of areas such as the pro shop, skate rental and skate sharpening areas,” said Bob Good, of Pashek Associates of Pittsburgh. “Along with those changes, the county needs to address safety issues, such as fire exits and handicapped accessibility.”

Good said the consolidation of such areas would allow them to operate more efficiently, with less staff.

“Right now, you have to have a person in each of the areas, such as the ticket booth, the pro shop, and the rental area,” he said. “By combining them, you could use fewer people and better utilize the space.”

Good said the complex should look at upgrading existing programs offered and possibly adding programs to attract more people. It was recommended to add additional locker room facilities to the complex.

“The cost of playing hockey is expensive and many people don’t want to go out and purchase all the equipment up front, “Good said. “You could look at a loaner program for hockey equipment, where you would rent the equipment to the younger kids for the first year, instead of (families) having to purchase it.”

Good recommended the county look into using the ice rink as a “convention center” facility in the months when ice isn’t being used.

“You could have car shows or home shows, and events such as the ARMTech event,” he said. “You need to refocus the marketing and sales efforts to bring in new and different things to the complex.”

Good and the three other firms hired to complete the study recommended that the county look at the recommendations and develop phases to make the changes, based on priority.

“We looked at things as a whole project and then broke it down into sections,” said Bruce Pollock, architect with RSSC Architects of Wexford. “It was done that way so that whatever and whenever the changes are made, they are cohesive.”

The overall cost of the recommended upgrades to the ice rink is estimated at $1.9 million, Good said.

A third planner, Wayne Wade of Wade Associates of Harrisburg, looked at the pool facility and suggested that the top priority should be spending approximately $600,000 to replace the recirculation system and expansion joints in the pool.

“The pool is leaking considerably and the system in place now is the original system, installed 40 years ago or more,” he said. “The pool is in very good shape for its age, but those items need to be completed to maintain the pool.”

Wade did compliment the county on the 1995 renovations to the pool, saying that current pool development trends are to incorporate items that the county added, such as the zero-depth access and the water slide.

“We recommend adding additional water features and lighting around the pool to make it more useful for different people,” he said. “By preserving the pool and enhancing it, you lower the operational costs.”

During a public meeting in January, several people suggested that the county look at adding more activities and attractions to draw more people; however, some of those items were not considered due to space constraints.

“We simply don’t have the space within the fence to look at adding things such as shuffleboard courts,” Good said. “We also don’t think that the tennis courts are an effective use of the space they are located in.”

The next step in the study is to finish gathering comments from the public and county and prepare a final report, which should be completed in about a month. The report would then be sent to county and state officials for review.

The cost of the study is $49,325, to be funded by a 50 percent match by the county and a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant.

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