James Brieley (left) and Moises Chavez play keepaway on a gravel field at Albion Sports Complex on Monday.

Federal funds for Albion sports fields

Gravel fields to be converted to artificial turf.

Only a few weeks after Maple Ridge applied for a federal grant to improve Albion Sports Complex, the city has learned it will get the entire half million dollars.

Council told staff June 15 to apply for the grant from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. The money will be used to convert two, under-used full-sized gravel soccer fields into smaller artificial fields.

MP Randy Kamp and Mayor Nicole Read both announced Friday that Maple Ridge will get $500,000.

What’s still to be resolved is the actual layout of the artificial turf areas.

That will be determined after intensive consultation with user groups.

Dividing the space, which now has two full-size soccer fields, into three or four smaller ones will allow Super 8 soccer, rugby, football and lacrosse to be played. Pathways would divide the fields. Artificial sports fields allow constant use while providing practice space to take the pressure off the full-size fields.

David Boag, director of parks and facilities, said there is steady and increasing demand for artificial fields, even after the construction of one at Samuel Robertson Technical, Westview and Pitt Meadows secondary schools.

“They allow the unlimited play we need to support youth development in soccer, and football, and rugby and lacrosse,” said Bruce McLeod, manager of parks planning.

As well, the Albion project insures that no other natural or artificial turf fields in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows will be affected and instead will make better use of existing field space.

The gravel fields were installed in 1998 as an alternative for teams when the natural turf fields were closed due to weather.

But now that there are three artificial fields, demand has fallen and the gravel fields are only used as a last resort, Boag told council previously.

It’s doubtful a full-size soccer pitch will be part of the project.

“That would be a significant change from the concept. We see the value in being able to use this for multiple uses at once,” said McLeod.

Improving the fields, about a $3-million project, also will require more parking for the Albion Sports Complex. Those extra spaces will be created by adjoining the existing gravel lot.

The federal money will pay for about 17 per cent of the project.

Space is limited in the area because of streams and setback areas.

A washroom that will serve the water park area and the new fields has recently gone to the process of asking for construction bids.

McLeod pointed out that Hammond Stadium has recently been upgraded, allowing year-long baseball.

The infrastructure grant coincides with Canada’s 150th birthday so the money won’t be dispersed until April 2017. Construction has to be done within a year, under the conditions of the grant.

“We really didn’t know that an announcement was coming as quickly as it did,” McLeod said.

The department is grateful for the funding, he added.

Kamp said in a release that the federal 2015 budget earmarks $150 million for infrastructure. However, a key condition of the program is that money must be used to renovate or expand existing buildings. He said the grant was approved by Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification Michelle Rempel and officials at Western Economic Diversification.

Asked why the grant was announced so quickly after applying, Kamp said Maple Ridge applied at the end of the four-week intake period.

But in Maple Ridge’s case it was known that the city needed a decision as soon as possible.

“Also, it’s not unusual for governments to want to complete their legislative and program agenda as the end of the parliament approaches.”

He said the announcement wasn’t made, to his knowledge, in time for the federal election, Oct. 19.

Kamp’s executive assistant Mike Murray and Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton are both seeking the Conservative nomination to succeed Kamp, who’s retiring.

A date hasn’t been set yet for a nomination meeting.

 

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