The town and Rocky View County are working fast to fill in the blanks since approving a search for proposals that could radically change the way Cochrane recreation facilities are managed and operated in the future.

An information session is being held tonight (May 30) for stakeholders of the SLS Centre to explain the announcement and the end goal. Town and Rocky View officials will be participating.

Mayor Jeff Genung says they will be assuring stakeholders there won't be any noticeable immediate change over the next few months.

"We're just really trying to answer any of the questions and lower any of the fears and the anxiety that might be creeping," says Mayor Genung.

But after that, it may be a different story. 

Genung says the question of how Cochrane's SLS Centre and Cochrane Arena are governed and funded arose when the town and Rocky View County negotiated a new cost-sharing agreement in late 2022.

Left undone was a new ownership agreement, including important issues like capital costs and upkeep.

In the meantime, Cochrane and Rocky View County have been experiencing rapid growth and pressure on their recreational facilities. It begged the question, does the current management model work for Cochrane, and are there better options the town could consider?

The mayor says now is the time to explore those questions before the town begins to development further recreation facilities.

He says one may follow with the staff.

"We have a little runway now before we start on that bricks and mortar and open the doors to potentially more ice surfaces, field houses and rec facilities to understand how they'll be operated. That's really what this request for proposals is about; answering some questions before we're in a position where we have to make a decision."

Wall of FameA display outside Totem One is dedicated to the many who laid the groundwork for the SLS Centre.

That change will likely mean the end of the volunteer board of the Spray Lake Sawmills Recreation Park Society which oversees both facilities.

It's not a shot at the board. If anything, it's a testamony to how well they have done their job over the years, says the mayor.

At the turn of the last century, there was a dream to build a new arena when small little Cochrane blossomed into a town of over 10,000 people. The result was the construction of what is now Totem One. Two more arenas were added, a fieldhouse and most recently an aquatic centre. It's now estimated to be a $100 million facility.

The centre and how it's managed by a third party has been a source of pride to the town. The unique Cochrane model is frequently showcased to other municipal officials across the province. 

READ MORE: Cochrane initiatives catching eye of other municipalities

"I've been saying as many times as I can. We're so grateful for the way that this board has operated over the years. Turning a need for more ice 20 some years ago into what it is today. I mean, I don't think any of us would have would have even believed if that was something anyone or I ever dreamed would happen.

"The success of the board is real, but I don't think many people understand that it's a group of volunteers that are managing over $100 million of Cochrane and Rockyview county assets."

That said, he doesn't believe it's a sustainable model for what is in store for the future.

"Especially when you start to scale and that's where it starts to put pressure on this model and that's why we're looking at through the RFP process of what else is out there or who else is out there that could potentially operate this one and another one."

The RFP is expected to be released in early June. The matter is expected to be back in front of town council this fall.