New athletic park for Lacombe

Maybe they could even get the Als or the Argos to play an exhibition game on their next trip to Alberta.

LACOMBE — Maybe they could even get the Als or the Argos to play an exhibition game on their next trip to Alberta.

Excitement is building over a $3-million athletic park, including a new fieldhouse, rubberized running track and artificial turf, to replace existing sports fields in Lacombe.

Construction is set to start within the next few weeks, says football coach Fred Knip, who shared concerns with other parents, coaches and school administrators about the sorry state of existing facilities.

The Athletic Park committee’s story starts in 2006 and carries through to present day with the series of airless, mouse-infested sea containers currently being used as makeshift locker rooms for field teams, including the Lacombe Rams pee-wee, bantam and senior football teams. Locker rooms had been pushed from site to site as the school was rebuilt, said Knip.

The final straw came when it started to rain during a soccer tournament at Great Chief Park in Red Deer. The tournament had to be stopped to protect the grass, Knip said on Saturday.

At that point, he and his compatriots decided their project would need artificial turf as well. It’s weather proof, low maintenance, environmentally friendly and much easier on the athletes.

Lacombe has a high population of 3,600 people under 20 years old, including a large number who want to play sports.

He and school administrator Kevin Frank approached the school board, which offered approval in principle for the idea of creating a field house for the sports clubs.

“All we really wanted was just a fieldhouse, so we could get out of these sea containers.”

Now ready to start construction, the committee has received about $1.4 million in donations of cash, goods and services needed, along with the town’s assistance in seeking a $1-million recreation grant from the province.

Further fundraising projects are underway, including the sale of seat plaques to people and businesses interested in supporting the project.

Committee members hope to have the fieldhouse completed in time for the fall football season. Once complete, Lacombe Athletic Park will be a showcase for field sports, capable of hosting provincial tournaments regardless of weather, said Knip.

He’s hopeful CFL teams like the Montreal Alouettes or Toronto Argonauts will help inspire young players by stopping by for visits and perhaps playing some exhibition games when they are in Alberta to play Edmonton and Calgary.

“We’re going to have a first-class, first-rate facility here, not just for our football team, not just for Lacombe.”

Don Letwinetz, community relations analyst for EnCana Oil and Gas in Ponoka, was pleased to here that the fieldhouse will be named after his company, which donated $125,000 to the project.

“It’s always a privilege to be able to support local communities where EnCana has the privilege to operate,” said Letwinetz.

“It’s nice to be able to help out wherever we can.”

Lacombe town councillor Bill McQuesten called it phenomenal and a “win-win” for everybody.

The town is backing the group in his bid for federal.

It’s a great time to build because of the softening prices in both labour and materials, said McQuesten.