Parking in Albion a concern

New sports fields could take up overflow parking space for events like the Ridge Meadows Home Show.

Winder

Sports groups, the Home Show and Country Fest will be consulted before the city plows ahead with big changes next year in the Albion flats and Albion Sports Complex, says the city’s parks director David Boag.

“We’ve not yet started any kind of process around that,” said Boag.

The city last year received half a million dollars from the federal Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.

It’s going to add to $3 million of its own and in 2017 will turn two under-used gravel soccer fields into an artificial playing surface. It’s not certain whether smaller, artificial fields will be built or one or two full-size fields will be constructed in the area adjacent to 104th Avenue.

But the plans to create full-time fields could mean that space is no longer available as overflow parking for events such as the Ridge Meadows Home Show. That worries Cass Winder, Home Show project co-ordinator who’s yet to hear from the city.

Winder said the fields provide about 400 parking spaces for the popular show, which this year takes place April 29 to May 1.

That’s about a third of the total of 1,100 parking spots available for the Home Show. Exhibitors use 300 of those stalls, leaving only 800 for customers, which means that a loss of 400 stalls could cut the amount of parking in half.

Nothing’s affected for this year, though.

Winder would like to hear what the city’s intentions are.

“There’s just no communication ever with us. It seem like we’re always wondering what’s going to happen next year. I do know that events like this are not planned in one year.”

The new off-leash dog area nearby went up without the home show being notified. That area used to be allotted to the big trucks for the Home Show.

Winder said it’s been suggested that some of the parking be moved on to grass fields, but in the springtime, the ground is wet and parking on grass could turn it into a mud bog.

Winder added that, over the years, the Home Show society has spent about $150,000 improving the parking and grounds in the Albion Fairgrounds, which contains Planet Ice. When the Home Show moved to Planet Ice from the old arena in 2000, organizers were promised unlimited parking.

Boag, though, said finding enough parking for all users is a challenge. And sports teams, along with the Home Show, Country Fest and the Caribbean Festival will be consulted before any plans are made.

“Later in 2016, we’ll be getting together with all those groups and having discussions about what is the potential for the future.”

As it now stands, any time major events take place on the fairgrounds it requires closing the Albion Sports Complex to ensure there’s enough space.

That will take place before any decisions are made about the site configuration.

Once a new artificial field is built, that again could increase demand for parking as larger sports events take place.

The city was considering on building three or four smaller-sized sports fields so they can be used for practice but the feedback so far seems to be in favour of one or two full-sized soccer pitches, Boag said.

“My sense is something will have to be done. It’s just not sure what.”

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