The shovels were out but this wasn’t a typical ground-breaking ceremony.
The Lacombe Athletic Park Association (LAPA) had a “socially distant” ME Global sign reveal and fieldhouse expansion celebration on Wednesday.
COVID-19 has delayed construction on the project and the pandemci has also meant the normally cake-filled celebration was subdued. To follow social distancing rules, only the media was invited to take pictures of the new sign and there was no cake.
Despite the subdued tone, Jay Adamson, chair for the Lacombe Athletic Park Association, said “it feels great” to be breaking ground on the field house.
Construction on the field house will begin in early September by Scott Builders, who were putting fences up during the celebration.
“The idea is that the walls will be up, and it will be closed in here before the snow falls,” said Adamson. “Then they can really start a lot of the finishing work during the winter months, so when we open our doors, we will be good to go.”
The plan is to have the project functional by next spring.
The expansion of the field house includes: expanding dressing rooms to include storage space; adding another viewing tower for media and coaches – with an elevator for accessibility; a timing room that will tie the field house into the electronic needs of the track; and a covered portion for a barbecue area.
The barbecue area will be added so the field house “…will be way more functional and be able to handle bigger demands that we have within the park,” said Adamson.
The most important part of the expansion will be the toilets, he says.
“One of the big things we heard from our community is that we needed more bathrooms for sure,” said Adamson. “I mean when you have a football game going on, the lineups would get backed up. We had porta-potties and we didn’t want to have to bring the porta-potties in anymore.
“One of the major additions will be way more washrooms for the public to use.”
The field house is phase one of the expansion plans. Phase two will be upgrading the track to meet the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) standards.
“So, with the track, we are going to be working in collaboration with Athletics Alberta and through the collaboration with them and the Canadian Track and Field Association, we will make sure we are developing a facility that will meet the requirements for international events,” Adamson explained.
There are only 12 IAAF certified tracks in Canada and only two in Alberta. If the track can get IAAF certification it will be Alberta’s third track to get such credentials – putting Lacombe on the map for international track meets.
Adamson said the certification would mean “we are one of the big dogs.”
“We could host big-scale events. We could bring in international competitors. I mean if we are bringing in large scale events and the international community – of course when borders open – that is great for our economy in Lacombe,” said Adamson. “That just means that we will be on the map to host big things.”
But the ongoing pandemic has slowed plans for the track construction down. Funding for the field house was fully realized by the $2 million donation by ME Global. Some of those funds will roll over to the track construction, but LAPA is still only a quarter of the way to seeing the $5 million they want to raise for the project realized.
“I mean we are very cognizant of the economic position our province is in, our community is in and that many of our business partners who we seek for sponsorship and donations are in. We are lucky that we have such a great partner from ME Global to help us get this first phase going and also their contributions will roll over into our second phase which is the track and field infrastructure,” said Adamson.
“We’ve slowed our marketing plan down a little bit because we don’t want to go knocking on people’s door and saying ‘hey would you like to sponsor us’ when they still need to be cognizant of how to take care of their own business and their employees and such,” he said.
As far as fundraising is concerned, one of the biggest events is the LAPA Gala. Adamson said the gala date is still booked for next year, but like everything, COVID is making it difficult to plan.
“The gala date is still booked, and we plan to move ahead, but like a lot of events, it will look a little different.”