Maple Ridge makes a pitch for artificial fields

Maple Ridge is going to see if it can grab any of some cash available to help it turn two gravel soccer pitches...

Maple Ridge is going to see if it can grab any of some cash available to help it turn two gravel soccer pitches into four smaller, all-weather artificial fields at Albion Sports Complex.

Council told staff Monday to try for half a million dollars from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.

If successful, the money will pay for about 17 per cent of the project, which is listed in a staff report as costing $3 million.

However, according to the recreation master plan from 2010, it will cost $4 million to install the fields.

Under the staff proposal, the two full-sized fields would be converted into four smaller practice fields, suitable for minor soccer, rugby, lacrosse and football, or practice times.

Lighting and drainage are already on site, reducing the cost further to the city. Parking would also be improved.

Parks director David Boag said if the city gets the grant money, it will talk more with user groups to find the best plan.

Council also wanted to ensure that best configuration of the space would be followed.

One of the stipulations of the grant is that the money be used just for refurbishment of existing facilities rather than expanding or creating new ones.

“We’re really trying to maintain our footprint,” without expanding into stream setback areas, said parks manager Bruce McLeod.

“We’re actually losing capacity on this,” said Coun. Tyler Shymkiw,.

However, staff said four smaller fields makes less chance for collisions from the different sports when two fields are next to each other.

Use of the existing full-size gravel fields has dropped dramatically and are only used as a last resort because most teams want to play on artificial surfaces.

One option would be to build one full-size field and two smaller fields in the same space.

Council had a broader discussion about improving recreation and culture in the city.

Mayor Nicole Read wanted to know why the previous council would pass a recreation master plan in 2010 without allotting money to pay for it.

Finance general manager Paul Gill said council, in the past, focused on paying down the debt for the town centre project and for implementing the fire department master plan, which called for expanding the department.

But when it comes for money for recreation projects, “the reality is, the money isn’t there.”

Council considered a list of major projects that were in the parks and recreation master plan, along with the capital and yearly operating costs, in 2010 dollars.

The artificial fields are at the top of the to-do list, followed by a new community hall in Albion, listed at a capital cost of $10 million.

The old Albion hall, torn down in 2011, created a gap “in one of our fastest-growing areas,” said recreation general manager Kelly Swift.

Maple Ridge has a couple hundred thousand dollars set aside from the hall demolition and the land as seed money for the project. But it would cost up to $10 million to build a new Albion hall.

Theatre space is next on the list, followed by youth action park or skateboard park in Albion.

A swimming pool, ringing in at a 2010 cost of $18 million, and a new museum and archives, valued at $9 million, take up the last two positions on the wish list.

Read said the city could possibly partner with Katzie and Kwantlen First Nations and obtain federal funding to provide an archives.

“My sense is there are so many options for museums now,” said Read.

A better archival and collection system is needed, she added.

Coun. Craig Speirs said the city should build the artificial fields as soon as possible. “I think we’ve got to do it all.

“So show me the money.”

Gill said Maple Ridge has lots of capacity to borrow money, if approved by the taxpayers.

For example, the city could borrow $4.75 million for five years, paying off a million a year. The city actually has capacity to serve an annual debt load of $20 million, he said earlier.

“But we just can’t borrow what we want whenever we feel like it.” Cities must follow rules for borrowing.

Coun. Gordy Robson said with proceeds from the sale of city property downtown, enough money can be scraped together to build a new swimming pool, without having to borrow for it.