The City of St. Albert celebrated the completed $2.8-million makeover of Fowler Athletic Park during the District Elementary Schools Track meet Thursday.
Located at 63 Sir Winston Churchill Ave., the park began construction in the summer of 2021. The federal government funded a significant portion of the project — some $2.3 million — through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure program (ICIP). The park is used by running clubs, fitness trainers, schools, and individuals, and upgrades will help address previous safety issues and improve the track’s ability to host future sporting events.
Daniele Podlubny, interim director of recreation and parks, said federal funding “changed the whole ballgame” for the project.
When city administration initially brought the upgrade and improvement project forward for council approval, Podlubny said the plan was to complete it in three phases, with hopes of securing a grant in the future. Receiving the full round of funding helped to expedite the project so it could be completed in one go, she said.
On March 3, St. Albert city council approved a motion put forward by Mayor Cathy Heron to bring back a report on the feasibility of hosting either the winter or summer 55+ Alberta Games. Podlubny said the improved park will bolster the feasibility for St. Albert to potentially host provincial summer games in the future.
A suite of improvements
Completed by Wilco Contractors, the upgrade includes a new 400-metre track surface with a larger area for high-jump, upgrades to onsite buildings leased by the St. Albert Track and Field Club, an elevated speed track, and an upgraded throwing cage and shot-put circle.
Tara Feser, project co-ordinator with the city, said the upgrades were spurred by an assessment completed in 2018 that showed the track required repairing.
“Luckily for us, we did the construction last year during COVID-19, so we didn’t interrupt anybody,” Feser said.
Some upgrades, such as the throwing cage, have improved the park’s safety. Feser said in the previous track, the cage alignment meant only one event could take place at a time, and there were no opportunities for practicing beforehand.
Similar to before the improvements, the new track also includes a steeplechase jump — a hurdle followed by a water ditch.
“We’re one of the few facilities in the region that has that, so we thought it was very important to put that back in,” Feser said.
Improvements also include upgrades to two facilities for training and storage leased by the St. Albert Track and Field Club. Feser said a grant has been approved for a refreshing of a third facility in the park, which will take place later in the summer.
Denise Watson, a member of the St. Albert Track and Field Club, said the club uses the field four nights a week, as well as Thursday and Saturday mornings.
Watson said the upgrades have been “fantastic” for the club.
“Honestly, I think that the success of a number of our athletes at that higher level can be attributed to having the space and having the ability to be here consistently with them,” Watson said.
“We have a number of incredible athletes that are in the high school range that are on the cusp, and this is just going to take them a little bit further.”