CANMORE – Major changes are under consideration in the Town of Canmore 2019 capital budget for Lions Park.
In addition to a new playground, the site is expected to see a major transformation to expand and improve the tennis courts and remove the baseball diamond.
The municipal capital project is moving forward in conjunction with the Canmore Tennis Association (CTA), which is on the hook to help pay for half the capital improvements.
While the $800,000 project was included in the capital budget presentation, it did not have an identified source of funding. Council voted Tuesday night (Dec. 18) to fund $400,000 of it through the grants it receives from the municipal sustainability initiative if the CTA is successful in its bid to leverage provincial
Mayor John Borrowman put forward the motion to include it in the budget, noting the history of conversations in the community around expanding tennis opportunities.
“We have been talking about the possibility of this project for many years and we have been working in good faith with the Canmore Tennis Association to try and move this project along,” he said.
CTA president George Crookshank said the group has been hard at work over the past several years trying to gain support for plans to significantly upgrade the tennis courts at Lions Park.
That includes a membership framework that contributes 75 per cent of fees paid by tennis players to the municipality for the long-term operation and maintenance of courts in the community.
“We pay for our costs,” Crookshank said. “Our membership fees cover the operating costs for the courts and I am not aware of another organization in town that does that.”
Part of the effort to help support the proposal to build the new courts would see the association raise its fees by 50 per cent, with the additional revenue going to the Town of Canmore to cover the capital cost of the project over 20 years.
When it comes to the cost of the capital budget, Crookshank said the association applied for a provincial recreational grant program, but it needs to be approved in the budget for the application to continue being processed.
The grant could cover $387,000 of the total cost of a project along with $15,000 in fundraising by the CTA, which left $400,000 up for discussion by council.
“We think with that (grant funding) we have raised a significant amount of money,” Crookshank said, adding other user groups in town also make use of the courts. “If they are looking for us to pay for the whole project, that is a bit beyond what we have (financially).”
General manager of municipal infrastructure Michael Fark said the project coincides with the lifecycle replacement of the playground structure in the park, in the budget as costing $476,000.
“The intent is to move the playground to be complementary to where the tennis courts are going,” Fark said.
The playground, which was installed originally in the 1980s, would have to be relocated to a make space for the proposed expansion, said Fark, and is seen as good timing for both projects to occur simultaneously
“The playground is fully funded, but the tennis court is not,” he told council. “It is dependent on funding by the tennis club.
The tennis association worked with a consultant hired by the Town on a preliminary design for the expansion from three courts to five at Lions Park. It was a $50,000 project in the 2017 capital budget.
Crookshank said the courts should also meet international tennis standards for separation distances in order for tournaments to occur in the future, an added benefit of the project.
He said the expansion plans would also support the tennis association’s plans to expand its tennis programs offered in the community, including through local schools.
The capital project summary details that in addition to five tennis courts, there would be four pickle ball courts established.
The Town of Canmore’s 2016 recreation master plan identified tennis and pickle ball as a community priority as an outdoor amenity.
Fark said the process to design the playground will be similar to recent playground replacements in the community, with a consultant hired to engage the community on what options are created and choosing a final design.
Manager of public works Andreas Comeau said the project would not affect the soccer field, but it would mean removal of the baseball diamond.
“There is not a lot of space there,” Comeau said. “The way we envisioned would be to remove the baseball diamond … there are other ball diamonds in town, but we would need to remove that one to allow a tennis park.”
He told council that particular baseball diamond is not booked very often, with local leagues using the six other ones available in Elk Run, Three Sisters and Millennium Park instead.
The CTA, which formed in 1903, also has an online reservation system for court bookings that is managed by the municipality, which also provides a source of revenues.