Thursday, January 24, 2008

Public gets lowdown on Games track

Public gets lowdown on Games track
The Guardian

There was little opposition as Charlottetown residents gathered Wednesday to hear about a proposed athletic facility on the grounds of the University of Prince Edward Island.

Robert Arsenault, facilities division co-ordinator for the 2009 Canada Games Host Society, spent much of the meeting describing the concept for a site to hold running and athletics events. He said it will be a 400-metre track of eight competition lanes on an artificial surface surrounding a natural grass infield.

That natural grass infield can be used for soccer or football in the future, he said.

The track will be built directly over the existing MacAdam Field, which is now used for rugby.

Arsenault said the plan is to dig down four metres, resulting in a “fairly large excavation.’’

The soil that will be removed will be piled up in a large berm surrounding what would then become an almost sunken track, helping to reduce wind at the track level and providing a slope for seating spectators.

Elevations of the berm will not be much higher than the elevation of the land as it now is, he said.

The south side of the track near the university’s perimeter, or ring, road will be a concrete retaining structure that will include eight rows of concrete seating.

That will be the only permanent seating at the site and will seat 1,400.

On the opposite side of the track will be a flat gravel bed that can accommodate truck-mounted stadium seating that can be brought in for major events.

The closing ceremony is expected to be held at the site and between the permanent concrete seating, the truck-mount bleachers and the sloped berm, organizers hope to seat 5,000.

“Will there be rock concerts held there?’’ asked Joan Cumming, who along with her husband, Jim, are the owners of Garden Gate Inn further up University Avenue.

No, said Gary Bradshaw, vice-president, finance and facilities for UPEI. He said the university would ensure the site is used strictly for athletic events.

Cumming also asked about lighting and was told there is no plan by the Canada Games organization to install lighting, but underground infrastructure will be installed during construction that might accommodate lighting in the future.

Cummings wanted to know about sound systems. Arsenault said it will consist of two small “horn speakers’’ on top of a central building.

Former city councillor Philip Brown asked about plans to accommodate even more traffic getting into and out of the university.

Bradshaw said a third road into the campus has long been and still is a high priority.

Right now the best option seems to be working out an agreement with the Charlottetown Mall, he said.

That would see a new road running from the back parking lot of the mall, parallel to the Confederation Trail into the campus.

There is also negotiation for lights at the UPEI road off Belvedere.

“You mentioned football,’’ said city Coun. Mitchell Tweel, not wanting to let the opportunity pass.

He was told that the proposed track was similar to the facility at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and that varsity football would only require some pads of artificial turf laid over the track for “end-zone runouts.’’
“You are talking about sustainability, well . . . varsity football is the answer,’’ he said.

Wednesday’s meeting was only to receive public input so council will debate and decide on the issue at some later date.

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