Arena lobby, building dehumidifier improvements sought. (Houston Today photo)

Arena lobby, building dehumidifier improvements sought. (Houston Today photo)

District seeks federal grant for arena upgrades

Lobby up for retrofit; dehumidifier needs improvement

Two improvement projects planned for the Claude Parish Memorial Arena could be financed by a federal grant program, relieving the District of Houston of the need to use its own finances.

But the District would still need to spend $50,000 for design work first in order to submit the projects, one to improve the condition of the arena lobby and the other to update the structure’s dehumidifer, to the federal program.

That program, called the Canada Infrastructure Program for COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructre, would cover 100 per cent of the costs for retrofits, repairs and upgrades to public buildings, council was told at a special council meeting held Dec. 7.

Application details provided to the District indicate projects, if approved, must start before Sept. 30. 2021 and be completed by the end of 2021.

The lobby retrofit would cost an estimated $230,000 with a dehumidifier coming in at an estimated $230,000.

“Final design work can be included as part of the capital grant applications and are required to be at an advanced stage of planning or “shovel-ready”, the application information states.

Council approved of the $50,000 expenditure at the Dec. 7 meeting. The money will come from the District’s available finances.

“We estimate that a total of $50,000 in design fees would need to be incurred at this stage, based on 10 per cent of the total estimated costs,” District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck wrote in a briefing memo to council.

Council had already designated $150,000 from the District’s revenues from the Dungate Community Forest to the arena lobby as well as $80,000 of the District’s own monies. The arena dehumidifier upgrade had been contemplated as a 2021 project but was shelved as part of the District’s general spending reductions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But should the grant be successful, the Dungate money and the District money could then be used for other purposes at the arena, said Pinchbeck.

“Any unused funds will be returned to the Arena Capital Reserve account and saved for any future capital retrofits required at the arena,” he said.

District staffers also provided council with other projects that could be the subject of a grant application — a roof over the 14th Street Walking Bridge at an estimated $65,000, $500,000 to revitalize Jamie Baxter Park (a project already in the planning to be carried out over three years), $250,000 for an outdoor skating rink and $200,000 for a series of playground safety upgrades.

Staffers recommended not pursuing a grant for the outdoor skating rink as it is under internal review regarding costs, design and feasibility, and not a grant for the 14th St. Walking Bridge roof as a district long-range plan calls for the bridge to be replaced.