Blackfalds field house dream brightens

One round of public consultations still needed on final design plan

A field house in Blackfalds is one step closer to reality.

Residents got a chance to look at plans for the facility at an open house last week, and Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol says the designs were well received.

“The feedback was very positive,” said Stol.

“There were a lot of suggestions from the public that the consultants are going to go over. Some of the things that were recommended were a large gym space, a fitness centre, some meeting spaces and some opportunities to have rooms for local clubs. The next step is the consultants are going to price out what some of these hopes and dreams are going to cost. And then we’ll figure out from there a balance between what’s affordable and what was desire by the public.”

As is the case with any major capital project, costs will play a big factor in when the field house gets built and what is included, and Stol says, as of right now, they don’t know how much it will cost.

“We don’t have a price tag on it, and we don’t necessarily have a budget in mind,” Stol admitted.

“We wanted to leave it open and see, first of all, what was the need and then how are we going to meet the need. Maybe the need sees us going after a really big phased plan. Maybe the desire of the town is to accomplish it all at once. We wanted to really base the facility on the need, not on the price tag.”

Stol says they’ve been looking at building a new recreation facility since 2008 when the town undertook a community facility needs assessment.

“The community had the opportunity to identify their highest priorities for the future development of recreation facilities, and the field house kind of grew out of that assessment,” she said.

“There was high desire for more gym spaces, fitness spaces, and things that involved our trail system. People were really interested in the types of facilities where they could do more local recreation activities. I think, especially with such a high population of kids, people would like to have local options for their activities. It gets pretty tiresome to drive up and down the road in the winter.”

The preliminary plans call for the field house to go up in the northwest corner of the town, and many would like to see the town follow the lead of Penhold, which just recently opened a new multiplex. But Stol says Blackfalds doesn’t need to go that big.

“We already have some of the facilities that were included in the Penhold multiplex,” she noted.

“We already have a nice, new library space. We already have a town office space, and of course, we have our own arena space so what we’re going after is the missing component, which is the field house. We’re going to build the right size facility for Blackfalds. I don’t think we’re looking at a multiplex or a Collicutt Centre as we don’t need to copy some of those things. But we do need to expand on these local opportunities.”

A final design plan is expected to go through one more round of public consultation before coming back to Blackfalds town council in September for final approval.

But Stol cautions it could be two to three years before construction on the field house begins.

“We have a lot of steps between the planning stages to actually getting shovels in the ground,” Stol pointed out.

“We’re trying to make sure we have a really solid plan so the community is getting both what it can use and what it can afford.”