Interim solutions considered for Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park

NANAIMO – Park upgrades part of Nanaimo’s budget discussions.

Caledonia Park is a bit of a fixer-upper, and the city could be getting to work soon.

The City of Nanaimo’s parks and rec department will present options regarding the football field to councillors in the next few weeks as part of budget talks.

Richard Harding, parks and rec director, said staff are focusing on interim solutions at Caledonia Park in the $250,000 range. Movable bleachers and renovations to the locker rooms are priorities.

“We’re still [working] on a long-term improvement plan for Caledonia,” Harding said. “City council’s asking, ‘well, what can you do interim?’”

The Vancouver Island Raiders play home games at the Wall Street venue, and the Canadian Junior Football League and the B.C. Football Conference have asked the junior football team to get its facility up to standards.

Raiders president Chris Cross has been working with city staff on plans for upgrades.

His company, Palladian Developments, has offered to partner with the municipality on the project, providing machinery and manpower.

“We’ll try to save some money by doing some in-kind stuff and I’ve got some other corporate sponsors that can help out in various ways, hopefully, when we get the word,” Cross said. “It’ll be working together and trying to help out so it takes the burden off the taxpayer.”

The Caledonia Park upgrades issue came before council two months ago, but councillors voted to delay any decision-making until budget deliberations. With that process now underway, parks and rec needs to ready its report.

Harding said a couple of different options exist for the locker rooms.

“Most of the complaints from junior football is that a visiting team should have similar amenities,” he said. “We’ve got some ideas that we’re going to look at, possibly some renos to the existing buildings there. Another option is, do we bring in a temporary building?”

There has been talk of demolishing the bleachers, which might be a likely recommendation of the report. Harding suggested that the city might purchase aluminum bleachers similar to the ones that were installed last year at Merle Logan Field.

“[They] could either stay there for the long term or be moved to another location,” he said.

Those sort of bleachers might mean that the entire existing grandstand – bleachers, walls and roof – would have to go, a tradeoff of shelter for sightlines. “Sometimes with the new bleachers you can actually get yourself up higher. You are more exposed to the elements, but that’s part of football,” Harding said.

He said the report will present a few different choices and will come before council no later than next month. The Raiders, for their part, are holding their breath that something will finally be done about their home field.

“I’m hoping that the city will make a decision this month that we can go ahead and start doing some renovations, just to get us through until the big picture gets decided,” Cross said.

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