The new Paul Kane High School would have a twin outdoor rink as its neighbour under the terms of a proposed deal between St. Albert Public and Active Communities Alberta.
St. Albert Public School trustees voted May 26 to investigate a partnership with Active Communities Alberta to build a multi-use outdoor recreation facility on school board property.
Active Communities Alberta is a non-profit that seeks to build recreation facilities throughout the province.
St. Albert council cancelled a memorandum with the group in November 2020 that would have seen the city chip in $20 million to build a proposed $42-million rec-centre in the city’s northwest. Last March, council signed a letter of support for the group to build a two-to-three-acre twin outdoor rink that could be used year-round, which the group proposed to fund itself.
Active Communities director Alice Cameron said her group approached St. Albert Public superintendent Krimsen Sumners recently with the idea to host this rec facility on board-owned land near the new Paul Kane.
“It’s such a perfect fit for all the kids,” Cameron said, as this spot was within about a block of five schools (Paul Kane, Lorne Akins, Outreach High, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and Richard S. Fowler).
A report to the board showed that Active Communities proposed to build and run a facility with two hard-surface pads that could be used for ice and non-ice sports year-round. The facility would have a dressing room, storage area, and roof, but no side or end walls. In return for a 35-year lease and a veto on naming rights, St. Albert Public Schools would have free use of the facility during school hours and possibly at other times, subject to negotiations.
The facility would be far enough from nearby homes to prevent any noise issues and would have plenty of parking at nearby school facilities, said Active Communities president Matt Bachewich.
Cameron said Active Communities had raised about $500,000 of the roughly $4 million it needs for this facility, and hopes to recoup its operating costs through grants and rentals outside of school hours.
In an interview, Sumners said this facility would add new amenities to the region and give St. Albert Public students free, on-demand access to ice time.
“It’s a bit of a coup for us to be able to have access to our own ice,” she said, and this could let the board expand its sports programs.
Sumners said the facility, if built, would likely go on the site of the baseball diamond currently behind the Outreach High School. (The diamond would have to close once the new Paul Kane opens, in any case, to prevent players from hitting balls into the school’s windows.)
Speaking at the May 26 meeting, Sumners emphasized that St. Albert Public would not contribute staff or money toward the Active Communities project.
“We don’t plan on putting any money into the building,” she said — the district’s sole contribution would be the land.
While she wanted assurances the proposed facility would follow board policies (such as its ban on smoking), Trustee Sheri Wright said Active Communities had made a convincing case.
“There’s great value in this for our students and our schools,” she said, and it could be a boon to community sports and recreation.
Cameron said Active Communities hopes to start construction of this facility this fall, provided it can find the money and the land for it.
“It’s been (evident) with COVID that our outdoor facilities are lacking, and there’s a demand and a need for more. This is going to fill that need.”
In an email, board associate superintendent of finance Michael Brenneis said administration would work out a deal with Active Communities for possible board approval at a future meeting.