The Vernon Ladies Slo-Pitch League will continue to play its league games at Kin Race Track. Vernon council voted unanimously Monday on a staff recommendation to demolish all other existing structures at the 100-plus-year-0ld sports facility. (Morning Star - file photo)

Structures at Vernon sports facility coming down

Council votes unanimously to raze existing structures at Kin Race Track; ball diamonds will stay

The four softball diamonds at Kin Race Track will stay for 2019.

The rest of the structures at the aging Vernon sports facility will be torn down.

Council voted unanimously Monday on a staff recommendation that calls for the demolition of the horse bars and observation, towers, the removal of exterior fencing, horse pens and track railing, as well as other safety issues.

The demolition will cost approximately $560,000, which will come from insurance money after the fire of the historic race track’s grandstand in 2014 and is expected to be completed by August.

The Vernon Ladies Slo-Pitch League uses the diamonds for its league from April to June. Funtastic Sports Society used to use the diamonds for its annual slo-pitch tournament on the Canada Day long weekend, and did so in 2018, but will not use the facility for this year’s event.

Coun. Brian Quiring wondered if it might be advantageous to wait on the demolition for two reasons.

“One, it would be significantly less expensive to do the demolition if the demolition was coupled with another project,” said Quiring. “Two, with some of those structures, if we’re looking at future development on that land, it might be advantageous in the course of construction of another project.”

City of Vernon manager of parks and public spaces Kendra Kryszak said the existing buildings are in pretty bad shape.

“There are two-by-fours, two-by-sixes, tin roofs. I’m not saying material can’t be used for anything in the future,” said Kryszak. “We will go out to tender, select the lowest bidder with lowest price and move forward. Even last night (Sunday), we had some people living in those (structures). It is a safety concern.”

Coun. Kelly Fehr, the co-executive director of Turning Points Collaborative Society (formerly John Howard Society of North Okanagan), agreed the structures are a safety issue.

“I’ve been in those stalls, visited many (homeless) camps, it’s quite a safety concern,” said Fehr. “It’s a matter of time until it collapses.”

The city and Regional District of North Okanagan won a decade-old legal battle earlier this year when the Okanagan Equestrian Society withdrew its appeal of an earlier court ruling in favour of the city and RDNO. The city assumed responsibility for the park.

The track has only been used for softball since the historic grandstand was destroyed in a 2014 fire. Vernon Racing Days cancelled its summer horse racing schedule after the fire and no horse races have been run since.

Horse racing was prominently featured at the facility for more than 100 years.

“Other than routine maintenance to the four ball diamonds, there has been no other improvements or general maintenance completed (since the grandstand fire),” said Kryszak.

“Since that time, site conditions have continued to deteriorate creating a significant public safety issue and detracting from the overall aesthetic appeal of this park. Lack of care and maintenance, failing structures, leftover garbage, hazardous debris, and the difficulties with securing this site all contribute to the concerns regarding safety.”

City staff have attempted to minimize the risk by disconnecting power service to the area, removing doors to the horse barns and providing ongoing security through city bylaw and contract outfits.

The softball diamond conditions are decent in regards to the grass and shale. However, the dugout roof structures are aging, the concrete footings for the fencing and benches are heaving and the infrastructure has reached its maximum useful life span.

Disturbed areas, said Kryszak, should then be graded, returning the area back to a greenfield site (a piece of land that is undeveloped with few or no impediments to future development).

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