There’s a reoccuring theme as Greater Vernon draws closer to the April 6 borrowing referendum for a sports complex.
Some residents want to know why the $7.5 million proposal is at Okanagan College in Coldstream and not at Kin Race Track in Vernon. And it’s a valid question given that the 43rd Avenue site is publicly owned and a close walk to restaurants and hotels.
The short answer is the Regional District of North Okanagan and the City of Vernon have been mired in legal action ever since an eviction notice was issued to the Okanagan Equestrian Society in 2010. And until RDNO and the city stand their ground and actually represent the broad interests of the community, that land will remain unavailable.
But, more importantly, the proposed sports complex is not envisioned at Kin Race Track because other uses abound.
Through an exhaustive process, including public consultation, in 2010, RDNO has developed a redevelopment plan for Kin. It includes four slowpitch fields, a BMX track, a bicycle skill facility, two sheets of ice, a gymnastics facility, a plaza, trails, a playground, general park space and additional parking.
Civic Arena is on its last legs (for some historical context, the Second World War didn’t start until a year after it opened). That means Greater Vernon will soon have to provide additional ice time for adults and youth. Wesbild Centre was constructed in 2001 with the capability of a second ice sheet and that means part of the Kin track will be needed.
The speed skating club is also dealing with inadequate facilities and, as a result, tournaments are not held in Vernon. Similar circumstances also limit the gymnastics and BMX clubs.
There has also been the suggestion that the open area could become a permanent location for the farmers market if power connections and washrooms are provided.
Yes there will be a cost, but the vision for Kin is to develop a multi-use attraction right in the heart of the community.
Now as was mentioned earlier, the Kin site is central to restaurants and hotels. But, in reality, the college is only about four minutes from downtown, a similar distance as Grahame Park and DND where ball tournaments are held. Marshall Field, the soccer mecca, is about eight minutes from downtown.
The college site has easy access from the highway, there is public transit right there, an existing concession and classes for large events and Kal Beach is just a few minutes away for visitors wanting to cool off. Predator Ridge and Sparkling Hill are close at hand.
At a recent public information meeting, one resident questioned why Vernonites would invest in a facility in Coldstream. But keep in mind that the city, Coldstream and the electoral areas are part of a common recreation function and borders are irrelevant. Coldstream and electoral area residents have paid for facilities in Vernon for decades.
Perhaps the fact that location keeps coming up indicates that proponents of the sports complex have not done a sufficient job in explaining the benefits of the college property or the long-term opportunities for Kin.
But that aside, the diverse and growing needs of Greater Vernon residents require both locations.
It’s not an either or situation.
—Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star