User groups mull Balment Park decision for indoor facility

KEYSA, BMX group working together to ensure minimal impact on their respective operations

Cranbrook city council has decided to draft a conditional legal document to offer land at Balment Park for a proposed multi-use indoor facility that would be run by a local soccer organization.

However, getting to that decision has been a delicate process balancing competing priorities from a number of other community groups.

The BMX track is the most visible entity that could be potentially impacted by an indoor facility in Balment Park.

Ever since city council determined that Balment Park would serve as the location for the indoor facility, a number of groups including the Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association, BMX track representatives and city staff have been working together to find a specific location for the project within the park.

That question was answered on Monday night, when council voted to offer the space in between the BMX track and the curling centre.

Mike Robinson, a director with KEYSA who has been one of the driving influences behind the indoor facility, has been working closely with Laura Niehuas, with Cranbrook BMX.

With a specific location identified, Robinson says that the finer details can now be worked out between KEYSA, the BMX group and city staff.

“We really needed that answer last night [Monday night] so we can go forward, continue to work together,” Robinson said.

Niehaus agreed.

“The overall effect of what will happen…we’re not sure, we’re hoping to minimize the effects on all groups but we are working together to make it work,” said Niehaus.

“It’s positive.”

At Monday’s council meeting, a decision was reversed that would have placed the indoor facility right on the BXM track footprint — a location pitched as ‘Option Five’, which touched off some consternation in the biking community.

“We wanted to stay as a BMX group in Balment Park and KEYSA didn’t want to come in and take over,” said Niehaus, “and Council really put us in a situation when they voted on ‘Option Five’ and that’s not what we had worked towards.”

Council’s decision for the indoor facility location in Balment Park was not well received by the Sam Steele Society.

The society, which uses the park for Sam Steele Days celebrations in June, expressed disappointment in council’s direction.

“The Sam Steele Society is very disappointed that with the location in Balment Park, of the dome, that the space we require for the festival — the one and only green space that is large enough to accommodate the festival — will no longer be available,” said society spokesperson Laura Kennedy.

The society had earlier raised their concerns to city council in February, noting in a letter that the festival moved from Rotary Park to Balment Park two years ago due to the ever-growing expansion of the festivities.

When making the decision as to where to place the dome at Balment Park, we would request that you seriously consider leaving as much continuous green space as possible to host our community festival, allowing for future expansion and the potential of hosting other large outdoor events at this location,” wrote Carrie Schafer, the chair of the Sam Steele Society.

The indoor facility debate goes back to the fall of 2017, when Robinson first began fundraising for the project. With successful grant applications and donations from local businesses and the community, that effort has collected just shy of $1 million.

But the debate on where the facility should be built has been ongoing since at least last summer, following an open house hosted by the city that presented six different options.

Locations were narrowed down to Moir Park and Balment Park.

The city initially offered land up at Moir Park, however, KEYSA declined to sign a letter of intent, noting that the numbers from a business plan didn’t support facility up in the industrial park area.

The focus then shifted to a more central location and Balment Park was eventually identified as an option, with a few different configurations for the facility’s placement in the green space presented for city council’s consideration.

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