An artist rendering of the proposed 2,200-seat covered grandstand for athletic events at Bear Creek Park in Surrey. (submitted photo)

Sports ‘hub’ pitched at Surrey park designed to draw big track meets and games

‘Destination sports facility’ at Bear Creek Park includes plan to reduce athlete-walker conflicts

Sports groups in Surrey are applauding a proposed “destination sports facility” pitched for Bear Creek Park, which could be home to a 2,200-seat covered grandstand and artificial turf field by 2023.

The complex is designed to host national track and field meets, games of football, soccer and other sports, and also community events such as fundraising walks/runs and possibly concerts.

The plan calls for a “creative” increase in the number of parking stalls in the park, and also retention of the existing natural environment, according to Ted Uhrich, Surrey’s Manager of Parks Planning.

Details of the project were revealed to the public Tuesday evening (Oct. 1) during an open house held at the adjacent Surrey Arts Centre.

With a price tag of around $21 million, the project would include upgrading the track and sports field to “international standards” with a rubberized surface, and replacing the 500-seat wooden bleachers with a modern grandstand that would feature both individual plastic seats and “relaxed” seating, a concession, change rooms and a sheltered “warmup track” that would double as training space during the winter months.

The concrete structure is described as a “grandstand” in city documents, not a “stadium” announced by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum last winter during budget discussions.

The city has allocated $7 million to build the project as part of its five-year capital plan, Uhrich explained.

“The idea is that once this feasibility study is done,” he said, “we will apply for provincial and federal funding, for infrastructure improvements. Ultimately we’re aiming to have close to $21 million for the project, including the city contribution.”

Uhrich called it “a great investment” in modernizing an aging, well-used facility.

“These grandstands are old,” he said last week, on a morning when more than a dozen people walked the track for exercise.

“The other things we are planning is to redo the water park and playground as part of this project, because they’re getting close to the end of their life. It’s a reinvestment in this whole kind of hub here.”

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PICTURED: The current track at Bear Creek Park, a popular spot for walkers, includes wooden bleachers with room for close to 500 spectators. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

The project includes constructing a rubberized walking track surrounding the grass field that runs parallel with 88th Avenue, east of the arts centre. Priced at around $500,000, the work is currently being done, and the four-lane track should be ready for use in November, Uhrich told the Now-Leader.

The new rectangular track is designed to draw walkers away from the popular existing track that surrounds the park’s main field, to avoid conflicts with athletes in training.

Universal Athletics Club head coach Jessie Dosanjh has witnessed many accidents and injuries on the track in recent years, including when star athlete Katarina Vlahovic was hurt in a run-in with a walker.

“She just took off from the blocks and someone came in front, and to avoid that she hit the hurdles and broke three of her teeth,” Dosanjh recalled.

“I had a couple athletes get injured,” he added, “and the people, it’s not their fault. They want to walk, and they can use the track if nobody is there, but at least they can respect the place for what it’s built for. It’s not for a stroller or dress shoes, not a bike on it. If they really want to walk or roll around, they need a safe place, and the other (track) will be for that.”

In recent months, city staff worked with users groups and architects to design the proposed grandstand and track/field, which would include a track-themed play area behind the grandstand.

“This project has several years ahead of it,” Uhrich said, “so we’ve consulted with stakeholder groups in the spring and now we’ll show draft plans so the public can have a look, along with those same stakeholder groups. There’s still lots of time to refine plans and figure out the budget and some of those things.”

Comments about the project are sought by Oct. 18, online at surrey.ca/newparks or by email to ParksRecCulture@surrey.ca.

The facility is home to North Surrey Minor Football teams and clubhouse.

“It’s very exciting for us,” club president Jean McPherson said in August. “They’ve asked for our input. It’s definitely time for some improvements here, and the biggest thing for us will be to get a turf field.”

The facility would be similar in size to Langley’s McLeod Athletic Park, Uhrich said.

“We looked across the region at what other facilities are providing and if we could fill in any gaps, and so one of the unique things about this is it has an indoor, 80-metre rubberized track to help with training and event hosting. It would be dry training space in the winter months or it can provide that warmup space during events here.”

If the sports facility is built, the plan is to make a parking lot of the grass field where the new walking loop is being built, along with some additional stalls on existing lots off King George Boulevard and 140th Street.

“As we plan parks,” Uhrich said, “the issue of parking comes up a lot, and it’s very difficult to deliver all the parking required for a special event, because most of the time it will sit empty. So you have to come up with special-event plans and use spaces that have other programming. Our proposal is that for special events here, all the parking will be located within walking distance, within a five- or 10-minute range.”

The parking plan doesn’t sit well with Kathleen Lounsbury, a mother of three young athletes involved in football and track at Bear Creek Park.

“They should do some sort of temporary surface parking for special events, and not get rid of that soccer field,” she said at Tuesday’s open house. “They’re busy on the soccer field, so I see a lot of competition for the main turf here if that gets paved over for parking.

“Everything else, it looks great,” Lounsbury added. “I’m here a lot, and having the turf and the change rooms and everything else, the concession, it would be exciting, and we could host tournaments like the Bronze Boot in a nice facility. It’s time for that.”

• RELATED STORY: 50 years of Bronze Boot battles in Surrey, from August 2019.

As for environmental concerns, Uhrich said staff and consultants “have heard it loud and clear from park users – don’t pave over the park and don’t cut down trees,” he said.

“This facility is already here, and we’re essentially replacing it in place, because the footprint is already here. We’ll preserve the trees that move up the slope there, and we’re making sure to retain the setbacks and actually probably increase those setbacks off of Bear Creek and King Creek. This facility is kind of sandwiched between those two creeks, so its location, you can’t really change it. It respects the setbacks so we’re just redeveloping it in the same location.”

Surrey Councillor Doug Elford had a look at the facility plans at the open house.

“Certainly Surrey needs something like this,” Elford said. “The facility isn’t up to par right now, and we have some track events there but it’s an old facility without proper concessions, change rooms, so we’re in desperate need of a world-class facility that can hold national championships but can also accommodate all the other people, user groups in Surrey.”

Elford said Surrey is losing out on hosting national-level events because the Bear Creek facility isn’t adequate.

“We’re losing teams to other communities, our premier teams,” he said.

“Maybe even the Canadian Premier League (of soccer), it could be a good fit for a league like that, and maybe this is a case of ‘build it and they will come.’ I think a facility like this could be in big demand.”

• RELATED STORY: Canadian Premier League soccer franchise pitches new outdoor stadium plan in Surrey, from 2017.

Dosanjh of Universal Athletics said the new sports complex would also help Surrey’s tourism industry.

“We have been asking for this facility for a long time, and the reason is, number one, we are in a city that does not have any stadium to host any type of championship, which would be great for hotels and restaurants.

“And for the youth, the venue would help to bring a lot more youth to sports, not just track,” Dosanjh added.

“For the coming generation, we need better schools and better sports facilities. If the youth are there, and they are with their parents, you are discouraging the bad people. We need medals, not needles in those places.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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