Herman Halvorson

Herman Halvorson

Sports complex must go to voters

A site for a new track has been confirmed, but bringing taxpayers on board is the next big hurdle.

A site for a new track has been confirmed, but bringing taxpayers on board is the next big hurdle.

Greater Vernon politicians must determine when to hold a referendum to borrow up to $7.8 million after the Agricultural Land Commission approved a sports complex on  5.8 hectares next to Okanagan College in Coldstream.

“There has just been an election and there will be new appointees (to the parks board), so that decision will come from them,” said Patrick Nicol, a Vernon councillor.

Nicol won’t speculate on a possible timeline for a referendum.

“In challenging (economic) times, there has to be a lot of thought go into this proposal,” he said.

Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick hopes a referendum could be held in the spring but he admits there is a lot of work to be done before that.

“The detailed design has to be done and there needs to be a parallel process where the user groups are contacted,” he said.

“We need to make the message clear to the public of the benefits of this facility.”

Even with the election leading to new politicians, there is confidence officials will unite behind the sports complex.

“Everyone is on board,” said Herman Halvorson, the Regional District of North Okanagan’s outgoing chairperson.

Preliminary designs include an Olympic-size rubberized track, a lighted artificial playing field, a field house and bleachers.

It’s anticipated construction would take seven months, and the ALC has dictated that the facility be developed within three years.

The ALC had turned down a previous non-farm use application because it stated the land has good agricultural capabilities and it wasn’t convinced there was sufficient community need for a facility.

The decision to approve a sports complex came after a recent presentation from RDNO and the college.

“This is a great example of the co-operation we like to see between the community and the college,” said Jim Hamilton, OC president.

Besides providing recreational opportunities for students, a facility could lead to health and sports-related programs at the Kalamalka campus.

The Agricultural Land Commission has also asked OC to consider programs that promote agriculture.

“Staff is giving some thought to what might happen,” said Hamilton.

The complex would benefit local running, track and football groups because the current field and track in Polson Park are not regulation size.

Others that could also use it are the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and Heart Smart participants.

It is also hoped a facility would attract tournaments and special events, bolstering the economy.

“We are currently incapable of hosting the B.C. Summer Games,” said Tannis Nelson, RDNO’s community development co-ordinator, of the lack of a regulation size track.