Maple Ridge is taking a chance that the federal government will let the city switch its half-million-dollar cash contribution for building an artificial sports field in Albion flats to Merkley Park, near Maple Ridge secondary.
Council decided Tuesday to split a contract that would have allowed for designing both fields at the same time and instead just award a contract for designing Merkley Park.
Building an artificial-turf field, just east of Planet Ice, on what’s now a gravel field, would mean that space is no longer available for parking during special events, such as the Ridge Meadows Home Show or Country Fest.
Parking, or lack of it, has been an issue in the busy Albion flats, particularly for those events, as well as baseball and softball.
“We had a tremendous amount of feedback from the business community and from some of the user groups at that sport field, that parking was really essential,” said Coun. Tyler Shymkiw.
If the Planet Ice arena is expanded, that would mean even more demand for parking, resulting in even less space, as the building footprint for the arena would expand on to parking areas.
“To me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to convert the field to save $500,000, if we’re going to end up having to spend a couple million on a parking solution somewhere else,” Shymkiw said.
But Merkley Park is shovel-ready for construction, which should make it easier to transfer the grant, Shymkiw said.
“We’re hoping for a positive response from the federal government. We’re hopeful that the grant can be transferred.”
Maple Ridge received the $500,000 in 2015 from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.
Coun. Bob Masse acknowledged it could mean a delay in the plans to get more artificial fields.
“There will be the Merkley one, yes. I don’t think it’s going to be a real long time,” to build a second field somewhere.
It’s still possible that an artificial field could go into Albion flats, once the area plan is complete, sometime later this year.
Robson said parks and recreation will have other locations for artificial fields by next week.
“I think the intent is to do at least two fields this year,” Robson said Thursday.
Masse said everyone on council supports getting more artificial fields in Maple Ridge.
“I just think it would be a mistake to rush it and blow the Albion plan.”
He hopes the federal government will allow transferring the $500,000 grant to Merkley Park.
But the city could lose the money.
Cost for the field in Albion Sports Complex was budgeted at $3.5 million, and $2 million for the all-weather field in Merkley Park. The latter will be named after former soccer Olympian and Maple Ridge secondary graduate Karina LeBlanc.
Shymkiw said the city wants to find other spaces to use for artificial fields.
“My biggest concern is that you get fields on the ground so that you have a place for kids to play.”
Council approved a resolution suggested by Robson to look other possible locations for artificial fields on school grounds.
Shymkiw, Robson and Masse favoured abandoning the Albion site, while Couns. Kiersten Duncan and Craig Speirs wanted to stick with the original recreation plan of an artificial sports field in Albion.
Staff will find alternative parking locations for the special events, Speirs said.
“For me, this is where recreation is and should be.”
Speirs challenged Robson’s point that an artificial sports field shouldn’t be built until the Albion flats area plan, which sets out all the uses for the area, is complete.
“This land is worth a lot,” Robson said, adding that creating an artificial field before the plan is complete would be “short-sighted.”