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Sports city here we come

A sports community being proposed for the northwest corner of St. Albert would combine a $100-million sports complex with extensive residential, commercial and industrial development. The proponents of St.

A sports community being proposed for the northwest corner of St. Albert would combine a $100-million sports complex with extensive residential, commercial and industrial development.

The proponents of St. Albert Sports City unveiled their ambitious plan Thursday at a public open house, saying that sports is a growth industry with potential that is usually underestimated.

“Big ideas have to start somewhere, why not here?” said Dale Roy, a sales and marketing person with SAS Sports & Entertainment Group, the St. Albert-based company that is proposing the development.

The heart of the plan would be a multi-use sports complex that would include a 2,500-seat baseball stadium, an indoor fieldhouse large enough to hold a Canadian-sized football field and five ice hockey sheets.

The new development would also include several outdoor ball diamonds and a golf-training centre with a driving range and practice holes.

The idea is to create an inclusive community where people can live within walking distance of shopping and recreational amenities, said Pat Cassidy, a principal with SAS.

“We’re integrating what normally aren’t profitable components [recreation facilities] with commercially viable businesses,” Cassidy said. “They feed off each other. It becomes a win-win for both parties.”

SAS owns Athletes Nation training facility in Campbell Business Park, the Edmonton Prospects Baseball Club of the Western Major Baseball League and Prospect Magazine.

The group wants a stadium for its baseball team and wants to offer academies in 10 different sports, each with 100 athletes.

“Instead of manufacturing or producing cars … we will produce and develop aspiring athletes,” Roy said.

The group will ask city council to change its Municipal Development Plan to allow for non-industrial development on the land, which lies directly west of the North Ridge neighbourhood.

If it receives council approval, the group would begin building the central facility, which would cost in the range of $100 million, Cassidy said.

It would service the rest of the land and sell to end users for building the industrial, commercial and residential components, Cassidy said.

He thinks the entire build-out would happen over a 10-to-15 year period and cost in the range of $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

The development is being proposed alongside Avenir, a proposed residential development that aims to attract clean technology companies to locate in the SAS industrial development.

The city is recommending that the two projects appear before council together since they are closely linked, said Mayor Nolan Crouse.

He wants to see significant non-residential development on the land so the city can reduce the tax burden on current residents.

“What council has to look at first is, what is the tax impact and secondly … we have to make sure we’re not left holding the bag with anything,” Crouse said.

“We don’t want to have a sports facility that doesn’t pay for itself and then it’s being turned over to the municipality.”

Cassidy noted that his project is to be financed entirely with private-sector money and will be designed to be profitable.

Local realtor Jill Thomas, who sits on the St. Albert Economic Development Advisory Committee (SAEDAC), was unsure.

“I actually came here prepared to hate it and I don’t,” she said. “But I’m not sure. I really have to see more.”

SAEDAC wants the city to designate more land as industrial to ease the residential tax burden.

The land that Avenir and SAS are proposing to develop had been intended for industrial development since St. Albert annexed the area in 2007 but council abandoned that direction in a vote earlier this month.

The SAS and Avenir proponents claim their mixed-use approach would generate between 1.3 to 1.7 times more tax revenue than straight industrial development but Crouse noted those figures don’t factor in the added strain on municipal services associated with residential growth.