Beaumont's sports groups are in desperate need of more space for indoor sports. Our friends and neighbours (and our children) play ice sports, indoor soccer and court sports. For the first time last year, Beaumont's Amateur Hockey Association had to turn kids away from registration.
Council has been planning to expand the Aquafit to accommodate some of these needs. But speaking with the people who will use this facility the most - hockey, ringette, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball players - these plans won't even meet our current needs. They call it a band-aid solution. Once we've spent the estimated $30 million to build this facility, our growth will put us in the same position we are in now - without sufficient facilities for our kids to play and stay fit.
There is a smarter way to do this. And it starts with partnerships. We need to build partnerships with our regional neighbours, with those who will build our facilities and, most importantly, with those who will use those facilities.
Thinking about this problem, I spoke with Patrick Laforge a few weeks ago. Patrick is the former President and CEO of the Edmonton Oilers and is now working on revolutionizing professional soccer in Canada. He's been involved in building professional facilities - and with community facilities. If there's anyone around who knows more about building sports facilities, I certainly don't know who they are.
Patrick suggested we should think differently. Many new facilities are built as manufactured air-supported structures. These structures are fully climate controlled, and can be used year-round. This form of building is ready quicker, costs significantly less (1/4 - 1/2 as much) and lends itself more to future modular expansion than traditional construction. The Repsol Sport Centre (previously Talisman Centre) in Calgary is one such facility that's been in use for almost 35 years. More recently, Foote Field in Edmonton was converted into such a structure.
Current council and candidates for Mayor have suggested that it would take up to 10 years to service the recently annexed land for such a facility. This is because they are relying upon residential development to drive the need for servicing by private developers, rather than servicing the land through P3 development and municipal partnerships.
Even with the time required to secure and service a site, we could have our kids skating and playing in this facility faster than an expansion to the Aquafit facility - and we'd have a facility with the room to expand as we grow into the future.
One of the other things Patrick emphasized was the importance of collaboration and partnerships in building facilities like this. If we want our regional partners like Leduc County to help us build this facility, we must take their needs into account, and we must include them in this partnership. We can't continue to treat the County as a cash machine. We can't afford to sacrifice partnerships for control and ownership of the building. I've discussed this topic with some of the Leduc County councillors, and they've told me about the importance of the facility being accessible to residents in the East of the County. And the Aquafit site does not address this. We need to work with our regional partners to build a facility that will meet the needs of all of our communities.
Locally, we also need to reach out to the volunteer organizations that will use these facilities. Some of these organizations have built significant reserves to help with infrastructure. We need to include these groups in planning and funding this project.
We also need to reach out to the business community. We have builders who can contribute their expertise. There are businesses who want to show their commitment to the community. We need to engage all of these people as partners in this initiative.
If elected, I will encourage council to shelf the Aquafit plans for now and rapidly engage the surrounding communities, sports groups and the business community in a partnership to build a facility within the next 3 years that will serve the sports needs of all of our communities for decades to come.
This is how we will build a better Beaumont.