The demolition of the former Composite High School and Leisure Centre is not yet complete, but plans for the land around the area are already in motion, with city council eyeing a recreational dome structure.
On the last day of budget deliberations (Nov. 17) council approved $10 million from debenture for a recreational dome structure.
Time is of the essence, as council has heard from user groups, specifically Swan City Football Club, which turned away 150 young soccer players due to lack of field space with the closure of the Leisure Centre.
The Grande Prairie Cricket Association has also said it is in need of an indoor facility since the closure of the Leisure Centre.
Coun. Wade Pilat asked city administration about the timeline to have the dome ready to use by September so young athletes do not miss another season.
“What’s kind of the drop dead date if we actually want to see a facility built here,” he said.
Chief Public and Protective Services Officer Dan Lemieux says it would depend on the type of facility that is ultimately decided on by the community and council.
“Certainly, a dome would be quicker to put up, and if the community wants something different, it all depends on what type of facility,” he said.
“Timelines are tight if we were to build a dome next summer, but at this point, it’s probably still doable.”
Lemieux said the next steps are community consultation, and quickly after that, a report would be brought to council. Following the report, a decision from council would be needed.
The city responded to a request from the News, saying the report should come to council in January.
Mayor Jackie Clayton said the discussions are ongoing with the County of Grande Prairie about usage at the Crosslink County Sportsplex and creating additional space at that facility for user groups like soccer.
She noted the next municipal collaboration meeting is on Dec. 8, with an agenda item being Crosslink usage.
Coun. Chris Thiessen said that some city residents find the Sportsplex too far away, especially those who may only have a single car in their family or utilize transit.
Coun. Dylan Bressey said he believes the motion needs to be passed by council so that the dome is reflected in the budget.
“If we pass this motion, and we get down the path we decided, ‘hey actually it will be better for us to work with our partners invest money in the Crosslink,’ this money can be redeployed there.
“I’m also skeptical that we’re actually doing this for $10 million.”
He said items such as roads, services and parking lots may push the total over $10 million.
Clayton said historically, if the city funds a project in advance, other municipal partners have been less likely to add additional funding.
“As much as I’d love to see us work with our county colleagues and figure that out, I don’t think we have the time,” said Pilat.
“I just don’t think those conversations are going to happen quick enough.”
After council approved the $10 million from debenture, an additional motion was moved to have city administration work with Swan City FC and other user groups to identify financial support for the recreation facility.
Two designs considered for public consultation
City council narrowed down five proposed layouts for a recreational dome on the Avondale site to two at the Oct. 16 council meeting.
According to the city, consultations began on Nov. 20 in a session with recreation and sports groups, a community session on Nov. 21, and a stakeholder meeting on Nov. 24.
The city is expected to meet with the Grande Prairie Public School Division and Peace Wapiti Public School Division, as the dome could end up on one of the division’s lands.
A community survey is also available on the city website at engage.cityofgp.com/recfacility. The survey will remain open until Dec. 8.
The two layouts being considered include a facility north of the pickleball courts (option 4) and the other has a facility south of the pickleball courts (option 5), with the former Composite High School area becoming a parking lot.
“I’m still not 100 per cent convinced that I support this project,” said Bressey.
“I definitely am supportive of us going to the community to hear more thoughts from user groups, hear more thoughts from the neighbourhood and continue this conversation because for me, whether or not it’s a dome, I do think indoor recreation of some sorts is needed in our community and of some sorts should be on this land.”
The public consultations will also look different than what was presented to council because council decided to show a potential extension of the existing parking lot in Option 4 and potential east-to-west parking in Option 5.
“This is not setting anything in concrete, but what it is doing is we’re putting a potential for the increase in parking space to be at least considered by the neighbours in our consultations,” said Thiessen.
City council initially approved up to $10 million in principle for a new indoor recreation facility after looking at other locations around the city in April, but ultimately decided on Avondale.
By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Nov 30, 2023 at 09:37