Expansion on the horizon

The City of Prince Albert wants feedback on youth accessibility and affordability of programs and fitness facilities like the Alfred Jenkins Field House. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The Alfred Jenkins Field House could see a $2.1 million upgrade in the future thanks to a generous contribution from external sources.

Although the project has yet to receive formal approval at a regular council meeting, it did receive plenty of support from council during Monday’s executive committee meeting.

The upgrade includes two new soccer pitches, an outdoor basketball court and an Inclusive Jumpstart Playground.

The latter feature is the most expensive of the big-ticket items, coming in with a $1 million price tag. However, thanks to local business owner Malcolm Jenkins and Canadian Tire charity Jumpstart, the project has already received a major financial boost.

“There are 82 other cities who were in line in front of us to get this project, and by getting involved locally, we’ve been able to scoot to the front of the line,” Jenkins told council. “I would strongly recommend we do it. I’m a huge believer in the field house.”

Inclusive playgrounds are designed to allow children living with disabilities play alongside those who aren’t. Features include wheelchair accessible merry-go-rounds and special areas and activities for children with autism. Jumpstart has made it their goal to build at least one inclusive playground in every province and territory in Canada.

Jenkins and Jumpstart have agreed to fund 90 per cent of the structures and surfacing costs, while the city will foot the bill for lighting, fencing, accessible pathways and other amenities.

Mayor Greg Dionne said Prince Albert is fortunate to have local backing for a project that has no end to its benefits.

“It’s incredible,” Dionne said following Monday’s meeting. “We’re one of the few in North America who are going to have this facility. It’s going to put us on the map.”

Jenkins and Jumpstart aren’t the only one pitching in to help upgrade the field house. The Prince Albert Soccer Association is kicking in $304,000 to build two new soccer pitches. The city will cover the other $40,000.

In total, the city will be on the hook for more than $700,000 in project funding, the majority of which will go towards site pathways, parking lot additions and parking lot reconfigurations. All funding will come from the city’s Civic Facilities Reserve.

There were a few concerns about the increased traffic the new development would bring, and whether the west parking lot addition will be enough. However, Dionne said traffic and parking are the least of his concerns.

“If we have a parking issue that we can’t park on that property then hurray for us, because we’re a country of land and we can solve it,” he said. “We’ve got lots of fields. We can build parking, but to me, I hope we have that problem. I’m just so excited. If people say to me, ‘Greg, we’re jammed up there in parking,’ then we’ll expand the parking.”

This isn’t the first time local organizations have pushed for more development on the Alfred Jenkins Field House. In 2016, city council received a request to develop some beach volleyball courts on the site, and in 2017, Jenkins floated the idea of creating a three-on-three Olympic basketball court. The P.A. Youth Soccer Association also approached the city in 2017 about adding additional outdoor soccer fields.