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Active Communities looks for green light on sports campus

Non-profit to present at city council's Sept. 23 meeting in hopes of moving project along
1809 rec facility file
Matt Bachewich, president of Active Communities Alberta, says his organization is coming to council on Monday.

Active Communities Alberta would like to have shovels in the ground on a new sports campus in St. Albert within six months, but that hinges on getting the go-ahead from city council.

The organization will be presenting during next Monday’s council meeting, and president Matt Bachewich said the non-profit hopes to have a decision back from council regarding land for their proposed sports campus.

“I think the time is now for us to get moving ahead with a project like this,” he said. “Having a decision regarding the land would be a big contributor to us continuing to move forward with the project.”

In June 2018, the city struck a non-binding deal with Active Communities to build a $60-million facility to help deal with a shortage of recreation space. According to that agreement, the city would be responsible for providing $20 million, while Active Communities would secure $10 million each from the provincial and federal governments.

Bachewich said having the land for the proposed facility locked down would help “make a stronger case” for those dollars from other levels of government.

In March, St. Albert began the hunt for a 35-acre parcel that could house future amenities, including a sports campus. However, in June, city council approved an extension for administration to have more time for the search.

According to the agenda for city council’s Sept. 23 meeting, council will be discussing the matter of land for community amenities at that meeting.

Active Communities has been lobbying St. Albert city council for nearly three years, and Bachewich said it is important – especially after long, quiet summer months – to keep momentum moving on the project.

Bachewich added the organization has conducted many studies on recreation facilities across the province run by non-profits, and said their operating model would expand recreation services in St. Albert while reducing the need for residents to subsidize facilities. It would be self-sustaining and fund future renovations and projects using operating revenue.

Despite the provincial government indicating Alberta is in for some belt-tightening, Bachewich said “governments look for smart investments.” He said investing in a non-profit recreation facility would align with the United Conservative Party’s platform and has a short payback period through job creation and tax revenue.

Local development company Landrex Ventures is also set to present at council on Monday. In October, the company submitted a proposal to bring together the YMCA and Active Communities to create a recreation facility and pitched five different proposals. Landrex Ventures offered to donate land for the project on St. Albert’s north side.

Landrex Ventures president Ryan Andrews did not respond to an interview request before press time.

Bachewich said while the ACA has been patient, the drawback to that is the project loses the limelight.

“Being patient has its pros and cons: the pro is you’re giving space for council and administration to study things and look into them, however the con is it kind of falls out of the public realm even though there are lots of activities going on behind the scene.”

City council’s Sept. 23 meeting begins at 3 p.m. in St. Albert Place council chambers.

Hannah Lawson

About the Author: Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2019 after working as editor of the Athabasca Advocate. She writes about city hall.
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