Dieppe’s Economy and Residents To Delight In Multipurpose Uniplex

The largest project in the city of Dieppe, New Brunswick’s history is on track to open its doors for the first time to serve as a multipurpose and intergenerational facility and economic boost to the region.

Called UNIplex, after the provincial co-op bank UNI Financial Cooperation, which purchased naming rights to the building for $1 million for 15 years, it’s expected to open this September or October.

The $31-million, 100,000-square-foot facility sits in downtown Dieppe, about a kilometre from City Hall. It will serve as a one-stop shop of sorts for businesses and people of all ages. Among its amenities are two NHL-sized rinks, a greenhouse, meeting rooms, a walking track, a gym that can accommodate various types of fitness classes, food concession and rest areas, and a community kitchen for school programs, community events and public workshops. A local seniors’ committee will also have an office in the complex. Outside, a parking lot will have room for 300 cars.

UNIplex will replace the Centennial Arena, which was built in 1967. A 2011 consultant’s report recommended closing the arena because of safety concerns with its roof. The community then proposed the idea of incorporating other amenities into UNIplex.

“We put together a committee, Go Dieppe, with influential people from Dieppe — bankers, doctors, lawyers,” explained Jason Nadeau, project manager for the City of Dieppe. “They went to the public and asked what they wanted in that complex and the main thing was the relationship between the generations. So it’s a really intergenerational complex. The seniors could learn from the kids and vice-versa. That was the main vision of the committee. (The facility is) from the community, and for the community. That was really what enhanced our vision for the project, and still does.”

Students in Grades 11 and 12 came up with the idea of the greenhouse, where seniors could teach them about horticulture, and when the idea was mentioned to the next group to be consulted — seniors — “they were ‘yup, we’ll take care of it!’” said Nadeau, who added the committee had met with about 30 groups. “This is really surprising. It’s the first time that I’ve ever seen a greenhouse in a project like that.”

The greenhouse will not only provide produce for the facility’s kitchen, but 25 per cent of its harvests will be offered to local food banks.

In addition to being a year-round hub for wellness, business and cultural events in the Dieppe region, UNIplex is expected to draw more than 290,000 visitors annually and provide more than $24 million in economic spinoffs for the community each year, according to the City of Dieppe.

“With the Centennial Arena we were limited on the tournaments and the kind of tournaments we could host in Dieppe,” said Nadeau. “With this complex we have other opportunities to host provincial, national and whatever else.”

Some 1,100 seats will surround the main rink in the complex, while the secondary rink will have 65 seats and standing room for 150 people. There will also be 10 locker rooms, two of which can accommodate sledge hockey athletes, said the City of Dieppe.

The city’s vision for the facility positions it as an “attraction piece for the development of our downtown core and an asset for the development of sports and event tourism.”

Jobs, to staff the complex once its opened, are also expected be created.

Construction of the building, which began Jan. 2, 2019, has employed up to 150 people. The project is still on budget and on schedule, said Nadeau.

A public tendering process determined who would build the complex.

“There were three bidders at the beginning,” Nadeau said. “Pomerleau Inc. were the ones that were chosen and we don’t have any regrets. People are really professional, it’s a nice partnership with this company.”

While Pomerleau Inc. is based in Quebec, the subcontractors on the project are from the Dieppe region.

“The plumbers are from Moncton, and the electricians and everyone else that we could subcontract are from the area,” said Nadeau. “We’re looking to hire five to six more people to take care of the maintenance (once the building is open).”

Before the shovels hit the ground, however, the project had to overcome a few hurdles.

“We are a municipality, so we had to go through a few municipal councils before the project was awarded,” said Nadeau, who has been planning the project for eight to 10 years. “At the beginning of the project there was also a tariff for some steel, so we had to put forth a little bit more money.

We’ve met those challenges since the beginning. And there’s a change of order here and there, but nothing major.”

Waiting to receive funding from the federal and provincial governments has also been a challenge. “You need to be patient,” said Nadeau. “They came through, maybe a year later than we asked for, but we’re opening in the fall.”

The federal government contributed $9.5 million to the project, New Brunswick’s government provided $7.25 million, and the City of Dieppe itself put in $12 million. Go Dieppe is also raising $4.25 million to help pay for the building.

“I think we’ll get there pretty easily and pretty shortly,” said Nadeau of Go Dieppe’s fundraising goal.

He said he thinks the facility is something the citizens of Dieppe will be proud of for a long time.

“It’s all white IMP (insulated metal panels) on the exterior of the building with a whole lot of windows,” Nadeau said. “The front of the building is all windows up until 20 feet of windows at the other end. We are really satisfied with the look of the building and the quality of the building.”

Nadeau added the project’s team can’t wait to see the public’s reaction when they come into the building.

“It’s such a nice building. We have received a lot of good vibes on the project so far,” he said.

And to Nadeau, the name of the building is appropriate. “UNI means you get people together.”