City kept mum on outdoor sports complex, says proponent

Whitehorse city council had a year to voice its concerns about a proposed sports complex in Whistle Bend - but it never did.

Whitehorse city council had a year to voice its concerns about a proposed sports complex in Whistle Bend – but it never did.

That’s according to Tony Gaw, who heads the Yukon Outdoors Sports Complex Association, a group he assembled to manage the day-to-day operations of the facility.

The brand new association is made up of six members – including Sports Yukon, Yukon Soccer Association and Athletics Yukon – and was created after the territorial government showed interest in Gaw’s original pitch for the project.

The Yukon government was so impressed, said Gaw, that it earmarked $250,000 for detailed engineering designs last year.

Now, the government is seeking the city’s permission to rezone a parcel of land in Whistle Bend, where it plans on building the $7 million outdoor sports complex.

The facility, leased to YOSCA, would feature three soccer fields, a rubber track, an office building, various courts and bleachers.

A three-metre high fence would be built around the perimeter of the facility.

It is anticipated that construction could begin this year and that the facility could be in use by 2016.

Council, however, would have to give its approval to rezone the land from residential to parks and recreation.

Gaw said he first presented a conceptual design for the 7.17-hectare facility to senior management in March of last year.

Mayor Dan Curtis was there, Gaw said, as well as Brian Crist, who was acting city manager at the time.

“They were given an opportunity to comment on our report, but didn’t,” Gaw said.

“Then we met again with the new city manager (Christine Smith) in May, along with the parks and recreation department. But they just gave us a flow chart about how to apply for land within the city.”

Gaw said he met with the planning services department on four separate occasions last year.

He says he only heard about council’s concerns at a recent committee meeting held on Feb. 16.

That week, Mayor Dan Curtis told the News the project was moving along far too quickly, and there were no assurances the city wouldn’t be on the hook for operations and maintenance costs in the future.

He also questioned the need for such a large facility in Whitehorse.

Gaw said the association was asked to follow the lines of communication – meaning they had to deal exclusively with the planning department.

“I can’t control what happens internally with their communications,” Gaw said.

“There was some knowledge of what was going on. I also spoke to councillors about the project over the span of several months leading up to this February.

“I told council to I’d happily sit down with them to answer any of their questions, but they never got back to me.”

There’s an overwhelming need for new soccer fields in Whitehorse, Gaw said, and other user groups will benefit from the facility as well.

In fact Whitehorse’s facilities have become so poor that they shouldn’t even be used anymore, he added.

“The sport (soccer) has grown considerably,” he said.

“And Whistle Bend is the perfect site for so many reasons. It has all the site servicing infrastructure there that we can use and the topography fits with what we’re trying to do.

“Plus, the economic spin-off will be massive for contractors, plumbers, carpenters, financial institutions, etc.”

The government has maintained that operation and maintenance costs for the complex would be generated from user groups and rental income from the building.

According to Gaw, there would be very little maintenance involved. That means bookings and accounting duties, plus a part-time employee to open and close the facility and clean it up.

By charging users a fee, similar to the model being used at the Canada Games Centre, the association could generate funds, Gaw said.

Other options include advertising and having local businesses sell products there.

“The government said they’d look at covering any shortfalls in operation and maintenance costs,” he added.

And when the fields and track need to be replaced in 20-25 years, the association will have a plan in place to access funding from other sources, Gaw said.

The city passed first reading of the zoning amendment on Feb. 23, while a public hearing has been scheduled for March 23.

Second and third reading of the bylaw is scheduled for April 13.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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