City looks to Avondale for new recreational facility

·3 min read

A new recreational facility in the Avondale area is being eyed by city council.

After considering options in Smith and Cobblestone, council selected Avondale for the new facility.

“Council made a decision on multiple factors and, at the end of the day, settled on Avondale,” said Mayor Jackie Clayton.

Clayton said there is still time for the residents of Avondale to voice their concerns, and consultation with residents will be done.

“In recent years, we did an area redevelopment plan in Avondale, which had quite an extensive consultation in the neighbourhood,” she said.

“In that plan, there was an indication that there would be recreation as well as commercial and multifamily in that area, so that neighbourhood has been engaged over multiple years, but there still is time for consultation.”

Detailed plans on planning and traffic impacts are expected to come in the next few months, said Clayton.

City council approved $10 million in principle for a new indoor recreation facility at its April 3 regular council meeting.

The facility is currently being looked at being constructed as a dome, but other options are also being explored by city administration.

Swan City Football Club informed city council in January of the need for another indoor recreational facility as the closure of the Leisure Centre has left some children without an area to play.

The club suggested a dome for the city, which could be quickly constructed.

Earlier in the month, David Rojas, executive director of Swan City Football Club, said his biggest concern was the timeline of when the facility could be completed.

Demolishment of the old Composite School and Leisure Centre needs to be completed, and then land repaired before a dome can be constructed on the Avondale site. Demolition is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

Grande Prairie Public School Division Chair Joan Nellis and Superintendent Sandy McDonald spoke to city council on April 3 in support of a recreational facility in Avondale.

Residents from the Smith neighbourhood came to council in opposition to the proposed site in Smith.

William Colt Mainse spoke with his neighbours and gathered 30 letters opposing the dome. Some noted noise levels, higher traffic, parking, and the dome's shadow cutting down on sunlight on neighbouring homes.

Michelle Gairdner, a Smith resident of 24 years, said she didn't want the dome in her neighbourhood. She noted she was aware of how the land south of her home on the vacant lot was zoned and that there is potential for a large apartment building to be built there, but said she hopes the land could be used for senior housing or a care facility.

The Smith lands were allocated to the Grande Spirit Foundation (GSF) in 2018.

Members of GSF also attended the council meeting, with the intention to ensure to city council the foundation is still interested in the Smith lands as future housing site.

GSF currently has a waiting list of 553 applications of residents looking for affordable housing; 95 per cent of those are located in the city, said Judy Kokotilo-Bekkerus, GSF chair and Town of Beaverlodge councillor.

“We currently have someone interested in building some apartments, and if they (city council) went with housing, this could happen much quicker.”

Still, with the dome going to Avondale, the mayor is looking toward other locations for the GSF housing.

The mayor noted she believes Smith would make a great multi-family site, but for seniors, an area closer to grocery stores and other amenities would be more suitable and beneficial.

Clayton said conversations will continue with Grande Prairie Regional Recreation Committee.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News