Edmonton councillor eyes sports campus

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One Edmonton city councillor says a proposed multi-million-dollar sports campus in St. Albert could be the perfect project to work on together.

Active Communities Alberta received conditional support from St. Albert city council late last month for its proposed $60-million-plus facility, which would provide space to a wide array of sports groups in St. Albert and surrounding areas.

Now, the organization is wasting no time in lobbying Edmonton and the provincial government for support.

Bev Esslinger, Edmonton’s Ward 2 councillor whose riding borders St. Albert to the south, says Active’s proposal has piqued her interest.

“I think it’s an idea whose time has come,” she said.

“We’re really looking at that regional or intermunicipal aspect to many things … I think recreation is another one we might want to consider.”

Esslinger says the prospect of reduced capital and operating costs is appealing, as is the notion of having more sports facilities to serve the northwest area of Edmonton.

“I’m very supportive of the idea and want to work to figure out if there’s a way we could do it,” she said.

“At the end of the day, if we can reduce the burden on taxpayers, we all win.”

Active Communities Alberta is looking for a similar funding commitment from Edmonton as they received from St. Albert last month, according to president Matt Bachewich. The non-profit organization has kicked their advocacy into high gear since council’s decision, which saw St. Albert give a non-binding commitment of $20 million based on several conditions, including that the project secure provincial and federal funding and be built in St. Albert.

The group is aiming for $10 million in provincial funding and $10 million in federal funding.

Bachewich said the weeks since council’s decision have been a “whirlwind,” with daily contact with the province. St. Albert’s decision came in time for Active to submit its complete business case to the provincial government so it can be reviewed for their capital planning process.

“St. Albert city council has positioned this project in a very favourable manner with the province,” he said.

“There’s definitely been a significant bump-up in level of interest from multiple levels of government.”

What about the location?

Esslinger says she thinks the location of the potential facility will be key. But wherever it gets built, she believes it will benefit the Edmonton residents in her area.

“Many residents in the northwest already use facilities in different jurisdictions, from Servus (Place) to others,” she said.

“I want us to pursue it and figure out location and all those kinds of things.”

Bachewich says Active Communities Alberta’s plan is to find a site that works with St. Albert as well as any other stakeholders that want to be involved in the project.

“We’d like to work to find a site that’s mutually agreeable and that serves the region in the best manner possible and positions this project in a manner that is optimal for obtaining provincial and federal contributions,” he said.

“We are open to options and interested in exploring all options.”

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April Hudson

April Hudson joined the Gazette in 2017. She writes about city issues and municipal politics. She also writes general news and features.