Grande Prairie is pitching up to $10 million toward a recreation dome amid an ongoing demand for indoor sports space.
Mayor Jackie Clayton said the new facility could be open in early 2024, depending on the site selected.
“We’ve looked at a dome coming to fruition quicker than a bricks and mortar or a steel structure would be,” she said at a news availability on Monday.
“The $10 million in principle is not to say that we’re building it no matter what. It’s saying that we are interested in building this facility.”
Clayton said there are ongoing discussions about where the facility could be located, including within the boundaries of municipal partners.
She said the city is working with the County of Grande Prairie and MD of Greenview on the proposed regional recreation facility.
‘A long way to go’
David Rojas, the executive director of Swan City FC, said the lack of indoor space is keeping players off the pitch.
“There’s still a long way to go, but definitely a step in the right direction,” Rojas said.
Rojas said the soccer club turned away 150 players this winter after the Leisure Centre closed for demolition in December. That’s on top of around 100 players who couldn’t join last fall due to a lack of space.
“Our biggest concern is timeline. I feel like right now we’re playing catch up. We lost a lot of numbers and we’re afraid we’re going to continue to lose more numbers,” Rojas said.
The centre had two indoor soccer pitches. Pitch 1 stands alone and will not be demolished. Pitch 2 is in a separate building which is slated to come down along with the adjoining old Composite High School.
City council voted in 2021 to demolish the building that houses Pitch 2 rather than retrofitting the pitch to a standalone building.
A new Composite High School opened last September in the Avondale neighbourhood.
The Grande Prairie Public School Division is working with the city on redevelopment plans for the former school and recreation site, also in Avondale.
Board chair Joan Nellis said Avondale would be an ideal location for a future recreation facility with multiple schools within walking distance.
“Our board is in favour of the dome on our site. We’re also in favour of a more longer term facility on [the old school] site,” Nellis said.
The province said in a statement to CBC News that reclamation at the old site won’t be completed until June 2024.
Clayton said the demolition timeline is a consideration for council.
The city has proposed possible dome sites in Avondale, Smith or Cobblestone.
Growth in lacrosse
Ron Regnier, past president of the Grande Prairie Lacrosse Association, said without boards and netting a dome wouldn’t work for Canada’s national summer sport.
Following the Leisure Centre closure, the association has relocated to an arena in Wembley about 20 kilometres west of Grande Prairie.
“We want to be able to put the youth into game-like situations to be the most prepared for when we do go down to Edmonton for all our games,” Regnier said.
He hopes the dome could free up space at other facilities, like Pitch 1, for Lacrosse.
He said more space could help the sport grow even more in the region.
Regnier said there are over 140 players this season — the highest he’s seen since joining the lacrosse association 13 years ago.