Harewood Centennial Park has seen significant upgrades in recent years and the city hopes another new amenity can be built there.
Nanaimo city council, at a meeting Monday, agreed to pursue $3.28 million through a federal infrastructure grant stream to construct a new artificial turf complex at the park’s Sherry Fields at the corner of Howard Avenue and Seventh Street. If the grant application is successful, the city would need to commit to paying the $1.19-million balance of the $4.47-million project.
Council previously sought, through the same Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, a $15.5-million grant toward Port Theatre expansion. That application was denied, and although the city could have re-submitted the request, staff advised otherwise and noted that average infrastructure grants were in the range of $2.5 million.
“For an intake No. 2, staff has tried to bring you projects that we think potentially would have a greater chance at success based on the information we’ve received from the ministry,” said Wendy Fulla, the city’s manager of business, asset and financial planning.
A staff report suggested council select one of three projects – artificial turf at Harewood Centennial Park, a boathouse with washrooms at Loudon Park, or further playground upgrades at Maffeo Sutton Park.
Councillors generally liked the artificial turf and boathouse projects best.
“I think the Barsby sports field is what the community could use the most, see the most users … but it’s above the average [amount] that these grants have given out in the past,” said Coun. Erin Hemmens. “The Loudon boathouse is quite unique and I think it might capture some interest because of its uniqueness.”
A majority of council members, including Mayor Leonard Krog, indicated a preference for the Harewood turf project.
“The Barsby fields would benefit a part of this community that historically – not so much now – has faced some real challenges in terms of poverty and the vulnerability that that creates,” Krog said. “Their sports teams have lifted the spirit in that neighbourhood amazingly, brought credit and honour to the city.”
He added that the park is becoming a “centrepiece” for family activity in the area.
Some other councillors favoured the Long Lake boathouse grant application for a $1.37-million grant and a $500,000 city contribution covering the $1.87-million total cost. Coun. Jim Turley noted that it would benefit not only the rowing and paddling clubs, but that the washrooms would be appreciated by beach-goers.
Turley’s motion to seek an infrastructure grant for the boathouse project failed 5-4 with Krog and councillors Sheryl Armstrong, Tyler Brown, Ben Geselbracht and Don Bonner opposed. Brown’s subsequent motion to seek an infrastructure grant for the artificial turf field passed 7-2 with Turley and Coun. Ian Thorpe opposed.
The Harewood turf project would include two playing surfaces and would be able to accommodate football, soccer, softball and field lacrosse. Lighting, a spectator area, perimeter walkway and storage space would also be constructed.
Richard Harding, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the city would be interested in partnering with the school district on the artificial turf fields, which would be adjacent to John Barsby Secondary School.
“Definitely we want to have a joint-use agreement with them for this facility … the school will be using it during the day, the community using it during the evening, weekends and holidays,” Harding said.