City council approves renaming popular community centre with a focus to honour Holly history

The mayor criticized some of the online comments about the project

After a lengthy debate on Monday night, Barrie city councillors gave final approval to rename the Holly Community Centre on Mapleton Avenue the ‘Peggy Hill Team Community Centre.’

The eight-year naming rights agreement is worth $640,000, money that will be put back into the city’s sponsorship revenue account, which in turn boosts the city’s overall annual operating revenue.

There had been a push from some people in the community to retain the Holly name.

Coun. Gary Harvey represents the area, and last week threw his support behind the renaming, but not on this Monday night.

“I’ve heard it pretty loud and clear from everybody that I have spoken with, well over 70 per cent of the people I have spoken with previous to last Monday, and also during this week have expressed concerns about the naming, and this has nothing to do with the vendor that has come forward.”

He emphasized the main concern was the loss of the name Holly in the renaming.

The decision to look into naming rights deals for Barrie facilities was made by a previous council in 2015. The city has a list of buildings and even off-leash dog parks for which staff are looking to find a sponsor, and the Holly Community Centre is one of them.

Access Barrie executive director Rebecca James-Reid told council there was not a consultation process built into the pilot when the policy was agreed upon.

The contract with the Peggy Hill Team includes an improved gathering space in the lobby area of the community centre including new furniture. There are also a number of hours per year for a value of $2,000 that the Peggy Hill Team can use for community events and activities at her discretion in consultation with the city’s recreation staff.

Coun. Clare Riepma also rejected the renaming.

“I am increasingly concerned about the overall loss of the Holly name, and I think you know it’s a community, and if we take that away, I think we lose something as a city.”

As part of the motion that was given final approval by council on Monday, the Heritage Barrie committee would also be consulted on the development of an installation at the facility to reflect the history of the Holly community.

Coun. Robert Thomson said it was important that the history not just go back a few hundred years, but to also include those who settled first in Holly – the Indigenous community.

Coun. Barry Ward said the deal was negotiated in good faith by both the Peggy Hill Team and staff.

“I can’t imagine the message it’s going to send if we pull out of this now,” said Ward. “Good luck to us moving forward of ever getting a sponsor.”

He said the city was about to embark on a few major projects, such as the naming of a performing arts centre and possibly sponsors for things like a downtown market.

“It’s our policy. If we don’t like the policy, we can change it, but we shouldn’t pick out one, the first very big naming opportunity we have and say we don’t like it.”

Mayor Jeff Lehman cited several examples of sponsorships the city currently has such as the Sadlon Centre, the Schmidt and Shaw Stadium, which is home to the Barrie Baycats, and the Five Points Theatre by Pratt Homes. He said all of those agreements, and if the Peggy Hill Team deal is included, have raised in the order of over $3 million, which the mayor noted doesn’t have to come out of taxpayers’ pockets.

He did agree that the sponsorship policy needed some fine-tuning.

“I think going forward that might help the public understand why council chose to pursue this would be to tie the funds raised for the sponsorship to the area of the corporation and services that are delivered to the public.”

Lehman said it was deeply, deeply unfortunate some of the comments that were made online about this particular arrangement.

“We as Barrie City Council on behalf of our community should give a full-throated thank you to Peggy Hill coming forward and wanting to do this,” said the mayor.

He acknowledged this was sponsorship and not a donation.

“But under no circumstances should Miss Hill or her company in any way have taken any kind of negativity around this support. It’s not about that. And to be honest, I am delighted that it’s somebody who lives in this area and who built a business here.”

Coun. Keenan Aylwin also was opposed to renaming. Coun. Natalie Harris did not participate, citing a conflict of interest, and Coun. Mike McCann was not at the meeting.