The foundation has been laid and the air-supported bubble has been raised.
The indoor facility at Balment Park is taking shape as contractors and volunteers stretched out the canvas and pumped in air to raise the dome over the weekend.
The long-running project, under the auspices of Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association (KEYSA), is nearing completion after nearly three years of feasibility investigation, fundraising and an intense community debate over the location.
KEYSA marked the raising of the dome by issuing a statement acknowledging funding partners and the progress on the indoor facility project since 2017.
“This project is said to be long overdue,” according to the statement. “Perhaps it is. Or perhaps now is the right time for such an exceptional demonstration of community spirit. When we consider the decades that this has been discussed, three years from concept to completion is remarkable. The indoor sports facility was billed as a multi-use facility during fundraising and has proven to be throughout design.
“We look forward to seeing the facility in use by diverse user groups, the benefits it brings to the area, and the opportunity it provides to youth.”
The facility will feature 25,000 square feet of artificial turf when fully installed. The dome itself went up on Thursday, Oct. 15, as the project is on pace to be completed on budget by the end of the month.
To give back to the community as a gesture of appreciation, KEYSA announced that one hour of facility time will be reserved for after-school time free of charge for non-profit groups, in order to promote organizations that encourage physical literacy in youth.
The project began in concept as a way for KEYSA players to train through the winter months to keep pace with their counter parts in the Okanagan and Alberta.
Spearheaded by KEYSA board leadership through Pamela Berry and Jason Wheeldon, a committee was formed in early 2o17 to explore the feasibility of an indoor facility.
Beyond the organization’s soccer players, KEYSA envisioned the facility to be used by groups such as baseball, football, rugby, lacrosse, and senior’s programs, based on community feedback. Further non-traditional potential uses included trade shows, graduation, special events, the Cranbrook Farmers Market, after school programs, and even the local remote control vehicle club.
An initial fundraising drive through corporate and private donations raised $120,000 in just five days, and the organization approached the City of Cranbrook and Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies for political and administrative support, respectively.
KEYSA developed the indoor facility concept, settling on an air-supported dome structure after consultation with a manufacturer and examining a similar structure in Kelowna. Arriving at a $1.3 million budget that was later increased to $1.5 million, the project went through a few different design alterations in consultation with architecture and engineering companies.
For example, the project footprint was reduced to lower the amount of land needed, and the height of the dome was adjusted to accommodate two 14-foot by 50-foot batting cages could be included.
Further fundraising efforts included significant financial and in-kind contributions from the Regional District of East Kootenay, New Dawn Developments, and the Columbia Basin Trust.
The indoor facility became a municipal election issue two years ago, which was fiercely debated during the campaign and in council chambers, when city council and staff examined and proposed various locations. KEYSA advocated for the Balment Park, noting the central location within the city as well as proximity to Mount Baker Secondary School and Laurie Middle School.