Changes could be coming to Caledonia Park, just not quite yet.
Nanaimo city council, at its regular meeting on Monday, asked staff to prepare a report on potential upgrades to the park and voted that any firm decisions will be made at budget deliberations.
Richard Harding, the city’s parks and recreation director, said that doesn’t necessarily mean that park improvements are being delayed.
“If anything, I think that council is saying, ‘we want you to bring some more detail for us so we can start moving forward,’” he said.
Council members generally spoke in favour of interim upgrades to Caledonia Park, to at least bring it up to Football B.C. standards. Mayor John Ruttan said he totally supports spending $250,000 on portable changerooms, washrooms and bleachers at the site, suggesting the city would be pleasing “the tenant we have and encouraging more use at Caledonia with, I think, a reasonable investment to do so.”
Coun. Diane Brennan, though, wondered why nobody was calling for a cost-benefit analysis.
“We’re not subjecting this to the same kind of scrutiny that we are subjecting other asset improvements to,” she said.
Coun. George Anderson said it would be “premature and unfair” not to subject the park upgrades to the budget process.
The football stadium issue was brought before city council this week because Nanaimo school district is working on the master planning process at Nanaimo District Secondary School and is in consultations with the municipality on joint use of its properties including Rotary Bowl.
A 1,500-seat football stadium, with lights, artificial turf and other amenities would cost about $6 million at either Caledonia Park or Rotary Bowl, according to a City of Nanaimo staff report.
“I’m not interested in spending $6 million on Caledonia so that we can play six games a year on it,” said Coun. Bill McKay. “I want to see if we can make whatever field we choose the capital for football in Nanaimo. Be it high school, be it the [Vancouver Island] Raiders, be it perhaps even a university team.”
Ruttan suggested Caledonia Park was the better choice because the site belongs to the municipality. Coun. Bill Bestwick didn’t like the idea of having to purchase Rotary Bowl.
“That was built on the blood, sweat and tears of the volunteers of our community and the corporate community,” he said. “Now we’re talking about maybe having to buy it back?”
Any planning at the NDSS site is preliminary, which is why city staff recommended council consider the $250,000 fix at Caledonia Park.
“This joint-use plan for Rotary will take some time, if not years to actually come to fruition,” said Ted Swabey, city manager. “So there’s temporary means that need to be done now.”
Harding said parks and rec budgeting is already underway, so staff will prepare a report and present it at an upcoming budget meeting.
“We’ll work closely with the Raiders, work closely with the B.C. Football Association and make sure that what we do propose will meet their needs,” he said.