A page from a city planning document showing planned changes to the football and soccer area at Great Chief Park. Changes include artificial turf

A page from a city planning document showing planned changes to the football and soccer area at Great Chief Park. Changes include artificial turf

Year-round activity planned for Great Chief

The public will have a final chance to review a proposed concept plan for improving Red Deer’s premiere outdoor, multi-sport facility.

The public will have a final chance to review a proposed concept plan for improving Red Deer’s premiere outdoor, multi-sport facility.

City council set aside the Great Chief Park Enhancement Concept Plan and Outdoor Speed Skating Oval Relocation — Site Assessment until Aug. 20 so residents can provide input.

The concept plan calls for $8.6-million worth of enhancements to the park that’s been around for more than 50 years.

ISL Engineering and Land Services was contracted to gather input on how to improve the 41-acre park beside Bower Ponds and the Red Deer River. It looked at developing a concept plan for sports field-related activities at Great Chief Park, as well as determining a new location for the speedskating oval currently in Rotary Recreation Park.

Randy Heaps, ISL senior landscape architect from Edmonton, said sports groups have hailed Great Chief as one of the best places to play in Alberta, but it’s older and needs upgrading.

“What (this plan) does is really take a park that’s already serving a lot of stakeholders and user groups and it makes it better,” said Heaps. “There’s opportunities to add additional facilities and amenities to make it better.”

The park now includes two fastball fields, two baseball diamonds, one soccer/football field, plus the Kiwanis Picnic site, a 10-hole pitch and putt and trails.

User groups and city staff estimate that more than 80,000 spectators attended games in Great Chief Park in 2011.

Some of the plan’s recommendations include a new sports field clubhouse and maintenance building, synthetic turf field, permanent beer garden, batting cage, water and sanitary service upgrading and parking lot upgrades, as well as expansions.

The Great Chief Park Enhancement Concept Plan also calls for the outdoor speed skating oval in Rotary Recreation Park to be relocated to Great Chief and developed as a 400-metre Olympic-style facility. This would require the removal and replacement of the hedge and fence along the south side of the field to accommodate the track.

The oval would be placed on the synthetic turf field, which would have a liner placed on it so the ice doesn’t damage the surface below.

The improvements are also meant to make Great Chief into a major festival site for the city.

“The long-term development of the skating oval, football site and having that well connected to Bower Ponds really opens that up to events as well,” said Heaps.

Heaps said the park operator is going to work with user groups on making short-term improvements to fence mesh and backstops.

“When you start to look at all the bigger picture items and even some of the new facilities like batting cages, those are things that groups can raise money to build and to operate,” said Heaps. “So it’s not just about the new and glossy, but smaller things that can make an impact.”

Heaps said the plan is stretched out over 10 years, with smaller items set over the next one to three years, while bigger items like the synthetic turf field to take place beyond five years.

Community Services director Greg Scott said the timeline for these projects would include considering what may have to be done should the city be awarded the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

The plan suggests the city do a formal parking and access study to determine the need and specific parking requirements for tournament use.

City Coun. Cindy Jefferies said the city should also consider the future pedestrian bridge that will be built from Riverlands into Bower Ponds/Great Chief Park.

“I think it will be an important alternate access route,” said Jefferies.

She called it an exciting plan that involved a number of sports groups. But it’s an ambitious one as well, she said.

“I have some concerns about our capacity, mostly on staffing because in our recent budget we did cut some positions in parks and recreation around facilities development,” she said. “We have to be careful we don’t load too much on an already reduced capacity area of the city.”

For more information, go online to www.reddeer.ca and click on the “plans” link.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com