Layout and sketch of the proposed sportsplex.

Layout and sketch of the proposed sportsplex.

School District sportsplex moves forward

An indoor sports facility to provide year-round turf, courts, and classroom space in Smithers is closer to reality.

A version of the proposed Bulkley Valley School District sportsplex is moving forward, with the district seeking out partners to help fund the $3.5-4-million project as soon as this May.

A more affordable version than the one drawn up by architects last September, the facility would provide turf for indoor soccer and rugby year-round. It would also include a walking track, mezzazine space, change rooms, court space for basketball and volleyball. It could also be used for other non-sporting events.

“If you look at the gym facilities at Smithers Secondary School, we need it. We’re not going to get from the government an increase in money to build a second gym, so [the district is] trying to do this and trying to build something that’s both a benefit both to the students in our district and to the community in general,” said school board chair Les Kearns at last Tuesday’s board meeting in Moricetown.

Vice chair Frank Farrell said he believed everyone in the Bulkley Valley would use the facility year-round.

“It’s one of those facilities that can benefit the whole community, young and old, and it’s something much like the swimming pool that can help keep the community active during the winter months. It’s also something that can be used in the summer months as well,” said Farrell.

“And it’s not just a Smithers facility, it’s something that would be a regional facility.”

The board has allocated $1.5 million to construction of the sportsplex, with an option to add $500,000 for a total of $2 million. That means half the funding would have to come from elsewhere.

“I’ve been working off of some of the work the Town [of Smithers] did on the second sheet of ice around recognition of different levels of sponsorship. Certainly at the community consult phase we’ll be looking at what community sponsorship is available. It could be naming rights on the building; it could be naming rights on the field; it could be putting plaques up on the main entryway at various levels for whatever the donations are,” said superintendent Chris van der Mark during the meeting.

“It does change the game a bit with people knowing that you’re more than halfway there as a starting point. It’s a great concept, but we can’t go it alone.”

The superintendent stressed at the board meeting that the space would be a boon for business.

“You also have event space. You have a field and you could do other things there. So you have a business plan that involves certainly your hotel and broader business community. Even though it is a school facility, it will certainly attract events far beyond the normal series you get in a hockey season. Suddenly you’re going to get rugby [and soccer] events that are happening in the only place north of Prince George that has a structure,” said van der Mark.