There were moody clouds and spouts of rain, but not even the weather could dampen celebrators’ spirits at the grand opening of Riel Recreation Park last Saturday.
Athletes, community sports leaders and dignitaries from all three levels of government converged on the multi-use sports field to make speeches and officially open the park.
“This entire park is the envy of many [municipalities] in our region,” said Mayor Nolan Crouse to a cheering crowd of onlookers. “Now we can have St. Albert play home games at home.”
The opening signalled the end of phase one of the Riel redevelopment that included a cap and grade of the former landfill beneath the site, a new sports field and RV park. Phase two, set to begin construction next year, will redevelop the rodeo grounds and BMX track.
Ottawa and the provincial government contributed $6 million to the $12.3-million remediation, a project that local MP Brent Rathgeber called one of a kind.
“The City of St. Albert now has a new jewel to add to its robust list of other attractions,” said Rathgeber. “Being a sports advocate myself … I can say first hand that sport and recreation builds strong families.”
The festivities kicked off shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday morning. A brief sprinkle of rain sent dozens of people scrambling to their cars for umbrellas, but the clouds cleared in time for the cake cutting ceremony at noon.
After the formal events, local teams demonstrated their skills on the field and celebrators enjoyed a free barbecue, face painting and even bouncy castles.
A few members of the Edmonton Eskimos were also on hand to sign autographs, and several RVs were open to the public to showcase the Kinsmen’s new RV park.
All in all it was a success, said Monique St. Louis, the city’s director of recreation services.
“It was a fantastic event,” said St. Louis, however she conceded there were a few hiccups.
“We had a tough time anticipating how many people would come,” she said.
According to St. Louis, the city expected a crowd of 2,000 but only 600 showed up, but she was happy with the crowd that attended.
“The one thing we couldn’t control was the weather,” St. Louis said, adding that next time they’ll plan the celebration date to better fit the weather. “May is a bit early, the weather is too unpredictable.”