Boosters of sports complex seek support from candidates

The Yukon Outdoor Sports Complex Association is hoping to score a goal with city council candidates at an open house on Tuesday evening.

The Yukon Outdoor Sports Complex Association is hoping to score a goal with city council candidates at an open house on Tuesday evening.

Earlier this year, the association presented its plans to build a sports complex in the Whistle Bend subdivision to Whitehorse city council.

The Yukon government had committed financially to the first phase of the project, which would have featured two full artificial turf fields, a rubberized track, bleachers and changing rooms.

The facility would have been leased to the association, which would have managed its day-to-day operations.

They also would have been on the hook for the operations and maintenance costs. According to a proposal submitted by Associated Engineering, the cost to operate two fields and one track was estimated at $50,778 per year.

Members of council raised several concerns with the project from the start. A big one is whether the city could end up on the hook if the newly formed group running the facility wound up in debt. The Yukon government has promised to financially backstop the facility’s operations, but councillors raised doubts about whether that promise would hold under future governments.

In response to council’s concerns, the government indicated it was willing to scale down and scrap the second phase of the project, which would have featured a 2,000-square foot multi-purpose building and courts for various user groups.

But that wasn’t enough to sway a majority of councillors, who ultimately voted in late April against the zoning amendment that would have given the government permission to build the facility.

Tony Gaw, the association’s president, is organizing the event on Tuesday in an effort to “get the project fired up again.”

This time around, he said the association has a brand new design that is site-specific to Whistle Bend.

He said he’s reached out to all 25 municipal candidates, with several of them indicating they would support a motion to bring the project back before city council.

“I hope someone brings it forward before the New Year,” he said.

“Last time around, the process seemed to keep getting stalled. I’d expect that if council approved a zoning amendment, we could get started on construction this winter to clear the land.

“Then we’d be ready for construction next summer.”

Gaw said the Yukon government was still on board to cover the cost of the first phase of the project, approximately $5.5 million.

He has always insisted there would be little maintenance involved for the fields. Requirements include bookings and accounting duties, plus a part-time employee to open and close the facility and clean it up.

He said he wouldn’t do anything differently if he had to pitch the idea to city council a second time.

“We answered every question that came up and we presented our conceptual design to them upwards of a year before our presentation,” he added.

“I hope there would be a better relationship between us, the city and the government this time around.”

Following council’s rejection of the zoning amendment in April, the Yukon Party issued a news release that singled out Mayor Dan Curtis for blocking the project. While the letter accused Curtis of casting the deciding vote on the matter, in fact, the vote ended in a 3-3 tie, and Curtis happened to be the last member of council to cast his vote.

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski also took to the airwaves that week to state that if the city wasn’t amenable to the idea of a sports complex, the next council might be.

Curtis defended his decision at the following council meeting in a heated speech that lasted almost 15 minutes.

“There are six of us and each one of our votes is a deciding vote,” Curtis said at the time.

The open house is taking place in the Sports Yukon foyer on Oct. 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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