City council rejects bid to pursue outdoor sports complex

For the second time this year, members of Whitehorse city council have shot down a plan to build an outdoor sports complex in the Whistle Bend subdivision.

For the second time this year, members of Whitehorse city council have shot down a plan to build an outdoor sports complex in the Whistle Bend subdivision.

The 4-3 vote on Monday night was identical to the one on April 27, when the Yukon government was denied permission to build two full artificial turf fields, a rubberized track, bleachers and changing rooms on four hectares of land.

This time, Coun. Samson Hartland had introduced a notice of motion to bring the issue back to the table.

He needed three more councillors to support him in order to have the bylaw discussed at second and third reading at a meeting next month.

But councillors Betty Irwin, Roslyn Woodcock, Jocelyn Curteanu and Mayor Dan Curtis all said it was too early to bring the project back to the table.

“I think the timing isn’t right,” said Curtis.

“My concern is that given the past six months, nothing new has come forward. I would have preferred to let this (bylaw) die and a new one come forward.”

It was standing room only inside council chambers as more than 75 people crammed inside to hear several delegates speak about the proposed project.

Former councillor Mike Gladish, who had voted against the bylaw amendment in April, said he was disappointed the motion was brought back so soon after being defeated.

“This isn’t a zoning question, it’s about spending $8 million on a complex without consulting Whitehorse taxpayers,” he said.

“Council was right to question the sustainability of a large project that could become the city’s responsibility in five to 10 years. If it’s not written in a long-term lease then the current council should be concerned.”

Gladish referred to history to help prove his point. In 1979 the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club requested $250,000 to build a chalet in preparation for a big race, he said.

The Yukon government gave the club $1 million provided it build a larger facility. But it became a burden the club couldn’t manage, he added.

Curlers, skiers and others tried in vain for 15 years to run the facility, without much success. Facing bankruptcy, the club turned the facility over to the city, which has run the recreation centre for over 15 years.

“The soccer complex project is similar,” Gladish said.

Tony Gaw, chair of the Yukon Outdoor Sports Complex Association, said the group had hired a sports architect as part of the design stage.

They ran their numbers by him and he agreed the facility could be run for about $50,000 a year, Gaw said.

“We were able to confirm our capital budget with him, as well as the operations and maintenance costs,” he said.

“This is a Yukon government project, tendered by them, paid for by them. They already confirmed they would cover any operations and maintenance costs above what we can’t.”

Lenore Morris, a treasurer with the Whitehorse Recreational Co-ed Soccer Association for the past 12 years, explained how she believed the operations and maintenance costs would be covered.

For the past three years, the association has paid an average of $17,000 per year to use the turf field at the Canada Games Centre, she said.

“Since the centre opened we’ve paid $154,000 in user fees to play there,” she added, explaining that user fees would cover operations and maintenance costs at the facility.

Currie Dixon, Yukon’s minister of community services, wrote in a March 9 letter to Mayor Curtis that the city would be off the hook for any future costs. “I would like to note that there are currently no expectations on the City of Whitehorse for the operations and maintenance of the complex,” he wrote.

On Twitter yesterday, Dixon voiced his disappointment at the vote, saying there was “no path forward for this project in the immediate future.”

He declined to be interviewed for this story.

“The minister issued a couple of tweets that sum it up and you can reference them,” said government spokesperson Dan Mcdonald.

In the legislative assembly, Liberal Leader Sandy Silver urged the territorial government to do a better job working with municipal governments “instead of criticizing them from the sidelines through social media when a decision is made that it does not like.”

Gaw said he was disappointed with the vote and felt like it was “pre-determined.”

He said the association had done everything it could to answer council’s questions.

“They kept asking for more information yet they never contacted us once with questions

or concerns despite attempts by YOSCA to communicate with them,” he said.

“We gave it our best shot and couldn’t have done more or provided more information so we are comfortable in our attempt to develop this complex.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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