Civic Arena to Get New Fitness Center
City Council approved federal Housing and Urban Development funding for the project, despite HUD's focus on low-income residents and senior citizens.
The St. Clair Shores City Council gave the green light for a new fitness center at the Civic Arena Complex Monday night, voting nearly unanimously to help fund the construction with federal development dollars.
The construction would convert two all-purpose rooms at the complex into a state-of-the-art weight room for the St. Clair Shores Hockey Association and St. Clair Shores Figure Skating Club. The additions will help the facility keep pace with others such as the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills and Compuware Ice Arena in Novi, according to Parks and Recreation Director Greg Esler.
“Training has changed over the years,” Esler said. “Lifting weights is now an essential part. We need to give our young people every advantage possible.”
The 6-8 week project will cost around $164,000, including about $20,000 for exercise equipment that has yet to be bid to contractors, Esler said. It will be funded with more than $114,000 raised by the SCSHA and SCSFSC along with $50,000 in federal Housing and Urban Development money.
HUD funds are usually targeted toward affordable housing and community facilities for low-income residents and senior citizens, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website.
It was a distinction that City Councilmember Candice Rusie-the lone vote opposing HUD money for the project-was quick to make.
“That doesn’t make sense to me when (HUD) is focusing on seniors and low-income people,” Rusie said. “This (fitness center) is only open to members of a private organization…Tax money went to build (Civic Arena Complex).”
A number of seniors joined Rusie’s opposition Monday night, concerned the fitness room would encroach on existing programs in the Senior Activities Center. Shores Mayor Robert Hison, however, told them otherwise.
“We are not invading or changing anything in the senior center with this project,” he said.
Esler assured the council that both the SCSHA and SCSFSC would allow other community groups to rent the space in the future. Still, helping the complex compete with other local facilities in attracting skaters proved to be the project’s main selling point.
The two organizations bring in about $1 million to St. Clair Shores each year, according to Esler. Their continued growth makes $50,000 in HUD funds a reasonable investment for the city, especially when private parties had already thrown in $114,00 to the project, Councilmember Kip Walby said.
“They’re throwing in $2.25, and they’re asking us for a buck in return,” he said. “I wish I had that on my 401k, because that’s a good deal.”
Cleaner, cheaper light for the city
After the vote on HUD funding for the Civic Arena project, the council unanimously approved a plan to install new, energy efficient lights in nearly a third of the city’s street light fixtures.
The project would gradually eliminate mercury vapor lights in favor of LED counterparts. The latter are more energy efficient and have a much longer working life, according to Detroit Edison officials and Community Development and Inspection Director Chris Rayes.
Along with environmental benefits, the new lights will help cut the city’s energy costs as well, Rayes added.
“We spend about $800,000 to $900,000 per year on street lighting,” he said.
The Regional Energy Office awarded the city a $450,000 grant to help fund the project, Rayes said. DTE Energy will also throw in $50,000, a small step toward its gradual installment of LED lights throughout southeastern Michigan.
Once the lights are installed, DTE will also give the city $36,000 in rebates because of energy savings, according to DTE officials.
St. Clair Shores is a new member of the Regional Energy Office, Rayes said, making the continued switch to LED lights throughout the entire city both necessary and possible.
“Next year as we move into the Regional Energy Office membership, we’ll write another grant,” Rayes said. “And as the technology becomes more prevalent, the cost of lights will come down.”