News » Whistler

Squamish council agrees to disagree on sports legacy funds

Council decides to put $500,000 towards an artificial turf project and $100,000 for a Nordic park



Squamish council wrestled with several different options to address the public reaction to its Committee of the Whole recommendation to divvy up the last $610,000 of the $750,000 Squamish Sport Legacy Fund between an artificial turf soccer field and a proposed Nordic training park.

Since the decision was announced, proponents of a mountain bike skills park at Brennan Park flooded council with letters urging them to reconsider. To let them be heard, council rearranged the regular council meeting on Tuesday, June 21 to allow people to speak before voting.

In the end the original decision - $500,000 for the artificial turf project and $110,000 for the Nordic park - were voted in by councillors, but not before they could suggest alternatives.

Members of the public spoke in favour of the soccer field funding, for the mountain bike skills park and against the Nordic park.

David Gillie, the president of the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association, assured council that his 500-member organization was firmly behind the park, despite a comment made in the Committee of the Whole that the mountain bike community was not behind the individual application.

"We feel this is a necessity for our town and I'd like to say the SORCA fully supports this and our 500 members," said Gillie.

Representatives from the soccer community also made a case for the funding, citing the poor quality of the grass fields - especially when they're wet - the poor quality of the gravel fields, and the high cost of renting the turf field at Quest University.

As for the Nordic facility, Gary McFarlane suggested that the money would be better spent on mountain biking or soccer than on building a training facility for ski jumpers, biathletes and cross-country skiers.

"It's pie-in-the-sky funding and we have to hope that somewhere down the line we produce athletes that use it," he said. "It would turn money into a white elephant that would need paid, skilled maintenance."

It was clear after the public spoke that councillors still had their own ideas how the remainder of the money should be spent, despite eight months of discussions.

Councillor Corinne Lonsdale put forward a motion that would strip $10,000 from the Nordic legacy to provide some seed funding for the mountain bike skills park.

Councillor Doug Race said he was opposed to funding the artificial turf soccer fields until the long-term financial costs could be assessed.

"Estimates range from $1 million to $2.5 million. Staff estimates the cost of turfing on a field at between $1.3 million and $1.7 million... and it doesn't end there," he said. "It would have a significant impact on future budgets (with maintenance costs) of between $170,000 and $230,000. $170,000 is a one per cent increase in taxes, so the one field would have significant ongoing impact."

Add a comment