Playing fields and parking lots don’t mix in Albion.
Maple Ridge council was to vote Tuesday on giving a $190,000 consultation-contract to kickstart the design of artificial fields at Albion Sports Complex and Merkley Park.
If approved, construction would start in the summer – with two new artificial fields ready for playing by fall, at a total cost of $5.5 million.
But building a new artificial field at Albion Sports Complex means building on a gravel surface used for parking by special events, such as the Ridge Meadows Home Show, which takes place in Planet Ice, as well as Country Fest.
The Home Show, alone, attracts hundreds of vendors and thousands of visitors each year. Country Fest also attracts thousands of visitors a year.
Parking won’t be affected for the Home Show this year, May 5-7, but will the following one with a new field in place.
Cass Winder, who organizes the Home Show, raised the concern a year ago and said Monday there’s still no plan for the loss of parking and is asking the city to delay the new field at Albion Sports Complex.
“Sadly, there is no parking plan.”
Discussion from last week’s council committee meeting confirms that.
“We basically have a year to figure something out,” said Coun. Tyler Shymkiw, adding he wanted updated information at Tuesday’s meeting.
Mayor Nicole Read said the Home Show is important for the city, but there’s also a demand for sports fields.
“We’re always paralyzed in this community from moving forward. We’ve got so many kids participating in sports in this community and we’ve got to give them fields,” she added.
“We’ll have to get some more parking and we’ll do some more shuttling. It’s not, in my opinion, going to kill the Home Show.”
There are other events that take place in Albion flats that also need parking, she said, and staff will do whatever they can to figure out a solution.
Chief administrator Ted Swabey told council that there’s no immediate solution and that the soccer fields have been in the plans for awhile.
Maple Ridge received federal funding for the turf field in Albion in July 2015.
The city will have to find alternative parking for the Home Show or not proceed with the artificial field and “leave it as a parking lot,” Swabey said.
Coun. Gordy Robson said a lack of parking could see the end of the Home Show and Country Fest, the latter of which takes place every July at the Albion Fairgrounds.
“There’s no parking. There’s no plan for Albion,” Robson said. “We have known for over a year there is no plan for parking.”
The proposed artificial field in Albion is part of the city’s recreation infrastructure consultation, now underway. It seeks the public’s views on new pools, rinks and sports fields.
The city is seeking public comment and input this spring, particularly with regard to the changes in the parking in Albion flats.
Only one artificial field is being proposed for Albion, allowing the retention of one of the gravel fields for parking.
However, the fields are separately funded from the 2016 and 2017 budgets, along with a $500,000 grant from Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.
Cost for the field in Albion Sports Complex is budgeted at $3.5 million and $2 million for the all-weather field in Merkley Park.
The field will be named after former Olympian and Maple Ridge secondary graduate Karina LeBlanc.
The artificial field in the Albion Sports Complex includes spectator seating, change rooms and improvements to lighting on existing field spaces.
Winder said previously that the Home Show spent $150,000 to improve parking at the Albion Fairgrounds, and that earlier suggestions about parking on grass could turn areas into muddy fields.
The city is working on concept plans for all of the Albion flats area, which includes creating enough parking for all events.
Those will be brought to council this spring.