The St. Albert BMX Association and its president Mike Hook are hoping to bring national BMX events to the city by building an Olympic-calibre supercross track in Riel Park.
The association has designed a supercross track that, if everything goes according to plan, will replace St. Albert's current course. Hook said the new track "would be the only functional, public access eight-metre track in Canada.” In the world of BMX racing, an eight-metre starting hill is the specified size for professional racing.
“When you all of a sudden can bring in national events of any kind … it changes the dynamic of that city in a big way," Hook said in an interview.
"Basically, riders like Molly Simpson from Red Deer who just hit her first podium on the World Cup circuit, she’s in a situation where if she wants to continue to train at that level, she’s got to be getting a spot to train in Abbotsford, B.C., or going to the [United States]," Hook said.
The new track won't be limited to just professional riders as the design also includes a five-metre starting hill. The current starting ramp at St. Albert's track is "sort of in between five and eight metres," Hook said.
The plan for a world-class race track in St. Albert is receiving some help from the City of St. Albert's Community Capital Program Grant as council approved $50,000 for the club on May 16.
Hook said the estimated cost of the new track is between $1.2 million and $1.3 million.
The BMX association initially applied for $187,701 in grant funding from the City, but on May 9 council's community living standing committee moved to recommend that council limit the grant to $50,000.
"I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a letdown," Hook said. "The grant committee is really focused on community engagement, and that’s 100-per-cent understandable, but as far as the regional impact and the broader scope impact, they really were not interested in hearing any of that.
"They’re kind of funding based on a local level only, and I think that’s a little disappointing," Hook said.
In a statement emailed to The Gazette, Mayor Cathy Heron said, "at every grant intake, we have many worthy groups that apply for funding; the reality is there are only so many dollars to go around.
"While the $50,000 that was recommended is short of the $175,000 ask, it would be one of the biggest grants to be awarded. We know the BMX society will make good use of this funding for their project."
The BMX association is also applying for the provincial government's community facility enhancement grant program. According to the Alberta government's website, this program provided 1,313 grants in the 2021/2022 fiscal year, totalling about $52 million in funding.
Hook is also a board member of the Alberta BMX Supercross Association, and he said the association's "total mandate is to get this fundraised and built."
Although a start date for construction hasn't been determined, "we’re fortunate Stony Plain BMX and Edmonton BMX [have] offered to take on all our membership during that time for no fees, no anything, so we can just seamlessly start riding somewhere else,” Hook said.
"When you’ve got the ability to have little tiny strider races on your track and you can bring in the professional circuit with an average of probably 3,500 riders for a World Cup event, it’s a big deal," Hook said.
"It would really be something.”
Gymnastics Club also receiving grant money
The St. Albert Gymnastics Club has also applied for the City's community capital grant, and on May 16 city council approved the full $50,594 the club applied for.
The club's executive director, Zoe Spaans, said in an interview that equipment replacements and upgrades have been a long time coming.
"Our organization has been in operation for almost 50 years, and I would say a lot of that equipment is from when we initially started," she said.
Spaans said the club is, "looking at replacing our floor, we’re looking to get new bars over our pit, we’re looking to get foam cube covers, new vault runway, lots of custom padding and upgrading our padding to today’s standards."
The gymnastics club needs $151,782 to complete the necessary upgrades, Spaans said. The club also applied for the provincial government's community facility enhancement grant, but Spaans isn't sure when the government will make their decision. Spaans said the remaining fundraising will "come from a casino that we’ve been granted for June of this year."
“It’s hopefully going to revitalize the entire interior of our club," she said.