Complex touted for economic benefit

Advocates of proposed sports complex say everyone will benefit financially

Not everyone will toss a football or leap hurdles at Greater Vernon’s proposed sports complex, but advocates believe everyone will benefit financially.

One of the arguments being put forward before Saturday’s referendum is the sports field and athletics facility will help draw tournaments and large events to town.

“Any tournament that comes to town affects every business,” said Akbal Mund, president of the new North Okanagan Sports Society.

The current lack of regulation facilities means Vernon Minor Football can’t hold any jamborees or championship games here.

“This facility will increase the economic impact,” said Bill Tarr, a long-time football coach.

“One team can bring up to 80 people and that’s just players, coaches and support staff.”

On top of that, there can be parents and siblings using local hotels, motels, restaurants and shops.

Similar circumstances could also occur for events run by the track and field club, lacrosse, rugby and ultimate frisbee.

Also on the radar could be the B.C. summer and seniors games.

“There are 25 events in the seniors games and a key one is track,” said Bill Glover, a Vernon resident involved with the B.C. Seniors Games.

“The track has to be a minimum of six lanes and 400 metres long.”

Because there isn’t a regulation-size track, Vernon has not hosted the B.C. Seniors Games since 1988.

It can draw from 2,000 to 4,000 participants aged 55 plus, as well as their spouses and family.

“They come in early to enjoy the area and stay behind,” said Glover.

“There is one group in Smithers that is so large they charter a flight to the Games.”

Both the B.C. Summer Games and B.C. Seniors Games can pump about $2 million into the host community’s economy.

“The Kelowna 2008 B.C. Summer Games created direct economic impact in the area of nearly $2.6 million,” states a B.C. Games analysis.

“Nearly three-quarters of this impact was created by the spending of Games participants while one-quarter was contributed by Games Society organizers.”

Beyond events, there is the hope tourists will do more than just pass through Vernon because they can exercise at the track.

“When people come to town, they need a reason to stick around,” said Mund.

Mund believes the proposed sports facility will help Greater Vernon tackle major financial challenges.

“We’re $70 million in the hole for infrastructure construction and it’s a tenth of that for a facility that will bring money to the community,” he said.

There is also the hope that expanded recreational amenities will be considered when young families, seniors or businesspeople are considering a community to locate to.

“If you don’t have the facility, they won’t come,” said Paul Anderson, a triathalete who is part of a steering committee that is promoting the referendum.

The referendum to borrow $7.5 million will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with polls at Priest Valley Gym, Ellison Elementary, Colstream Elementary and BX Elementary.

An advance poll runs today from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Schubert Centre, the Coldstream municipal office and the regional district office.