Cranbrook city council has agreed in principle to provide land at Balment Park for the construction of an indoor sports facility, however, the specific location has yet to be determined as staff mull six different options.
The vote was four to two in favour of the offer, which was made through a motion put forward by Councillor Norma Blissett. Councillors Wes Graham, Wayne Price and Ron Popoff also voted in favour, with Mayor Lee Pratt and Councillor Mike Peabody in opposition.
The issue dates back to the fall of 2017, as organizer Mike Robinson, who also serves as a director for the Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association, started fundraising for the project, which is budgeted at $1.3 million to build.
“I think it’s great news, it’s definitely what we’ve been hoping to hear for some time now,” said Robinson, “but even further than that, just the ability to work with all the other users there — Sam Steele [Society] and BMX — this is kind of what we’ve been asking for.”
While the facility is set for Balment Park, the specific location is still up in the air.
“We will still need to know specifics for location because that’s really the phase we’re at,” Robinson said. The concept of the building doesn’t change, but we’re down to getting details into the budget like where are we running utilities from, what are we working with, do we need a drilling program to go in and look at the underlying strata there and that determines how the foundation gets built.
“So we still are looking for more information.”
The vote was preceded by a presentation from Laura Niehaus, who spoke to mayor and council on behalf of the Cranbrook Bike Skills Society about the benefits of the park space and the BMX track’s proximity to the skate park.
“We’ve worked hard with both city staff and KEYSA to try and find a solution to allow the dome to be in this centralized location while keeping acessability to the BMX track and allowing the festival location to continue with it’s current use,” Niehaus said.
The Cranbrook Bike Skills Society is hosting a provincial race in the summer, and has eyes on bringing in national events in the future.
An 11th-hour sixth option was pitched minutes before the council meeting started, which is looking like a potential candidate that would preserve green space and have the least impact on a nearby BMX skills track.
The proposal would have the facility take up the first two rows of parking at the curling club in the northwest part of Balment, while also encroaching into the green space and abutting the BMX track, according to Chris New, the Director of Community Services.
“There certainly is some potential that could keep the BMX [track] where it is, shift the dome further into the parking lot of the curling club, knocking out about two rows of parking, and there would be some alignment required of the BMX track, so there is potential that something could be a better news story for everbody involved,” said New.
Moving and rebuilding the track would come with an estimated $90,000 price tag, in addition to hundreds of volunteer hours poured into creating the existing track.
Niehaus noted there are plans for future expansion with the track, where it is now, which include amenities such as power, lighting, clubhouse, and washrooms.
“We don’t feel that any of that would be jepoardized with the dome there [in Option Six],” Niehaus said, after the vote. “In fact, it would actually make it easier to have those things built in conjunction with KEYSA.”
The Sam Steele Society also expressed concern with the location, asking council to leave as much green space as possible for use as the Sam Steele Days fair grounds in future festivals and other large outdoor events.
Council received a report for information prepared by David Kim, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, before tabling Blissett’s motion to offer land at Balment.
Blissett and Popoff both spoke out in favour of the Balment location, with the latter noting that an indoor facility was mentioned in an updated parks and recreation master plan released in 2016.
Graham wanted to ensure the city wasn’t financial responsible for any costs if the project isn’t successful, which is language that can be written into a license of occupation, according to New.
Mayor Lee Pratt voted against the Balment location, citing his concerns on wanting to see a more detailed business plan, a schedule showing when user groups would be renting the facility and a firm commitment on usage from the school district.
“We’re working on the downtown revitalization and this will be part of our upcoming strategic planning sessions, which will also be looking at the longer vision for the city,” Pratt said. “We are not obligated to donate any land owned by the citizens of Cranbrook to any user group. I firmly believe this has now become a political issue which may cloud the decision based on popularity.”
He congratulated KEYSA for fundraising nearly $1 million towards the project and said he wasn’t against the facility itself, rather just the location.
“I want to make it clear, I’m not against the project, I’m just not in favour of putting it at Balment right now,” Pratt added. “I think there’s some other due diligence we could do to look at some other locations.”
The facility is a proposed 2,600 square metres space of indoor heated floors on artificial turf that can cater to a number of different sports besides soccer, such as baseball, lacrosse and football.
As the project gained momentum in early 2018, the city held an open house for the project, soliciting feedback for a number of proposed locations.
In a meeting behind closed doors, city council settled on offering a license of occupation at Moir Park last June, however, that location was criticized as being too remote. KEYSA projected a revenue loss of $34,000 if the facility was located in Moir Park, noting revenue opportunties from schools and nearby service clubs would likely be in jepoardy.
KEYSA declined the Moir Park location, but has been in discussions with the city since last fall as all parties remained in negotiations to find a palatable solution.