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Queen’s Park Stadium: A deteriorating New West 'jewel' in need of a makeover

Historic Queen’s Park Stadium needs a revamp — but 2,000 seats are no longer needed in New Westminster.

Queen's Park Stadium has seen better days and needs an overhaul.

That's the conclusion of a review of the facility, which found that while the field is of a high quality and is well used, the grandstand seating area is deteriorating and is nearing the end of its useful life

"The wooden elements are deteriorating and splintering, and in some cases rotting," said Brian Johnston, owner of Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants Ltd.  

"The concrete is spalling Even exposed rebar within the concrete is now showing and deteriorating."

On Monday, council received a report about Queen's Park Stadium and the projected need for spectator support amenities. Built in 1939, the stadium has a seating capacity of 2,000.

Dean Gibson, the city's director of parks and recreation, said some decisions will have to be made about the facility, as it's approaching its end of life. Recognizing that, he said work has taken place to better understand the community’s needs for the facility.

James Doan, the city's manager of parks operations and services, said about 50 per cent of the stadium’s use is for baseball, 40 per cent is for soccer and 10 per cent is for other non-sport uses/events, including day camps.

Johnston's review found that the field is "extremely well used" by user groups, mostly minor baseball and soccer.

"It's a very high-quality field with good-quality lighting, with lots of life left in the lighting; the actual surfaces are extremely high quality, and very well used – almost to full capacity, limited only by weather," he said. "And so, there's a lot of hours of use of the actual playing surfaces."

But when it comes to "bums in the seats," Johnston said there are often times when there are only 100 spectators in the grandstand for games and practices.

He said there are about 10 times a years when 200 seats are full, about eight times a year when 250 seats are used and "no incidents" of having 450 to 500 people seated in the grandstand.

"There's no experience of 800 people, 1,000 people. We just don't see that anymore," he told council. "That's a big change from decades ago."

When speaking with groups that regularly use Queen's Park Stadium, Johnston said they were very keen about the need for the playing surfaces but they didn't have a need for a 2,000-seat stadium.

When considering the stadium’s longer term future, Johnston said it is "very difficult" to justify providing more than 500 permanent spectator seats and support spaces for those spectators.

"To build more than 500, or to try and support more than 500 on a long-term basis, means investing in capacity that will likely not be used. Certainly if it were ever used, it would only be used on a very incidental special event kind of basis," he said.

"So our conclusion and recommendation is that there really is only need for about 500 permanent seats."

If additional seating is needed for specific events, Johnston said temporary seating could be set up.

More work to be done

At Monday’s workshop, council received the report about the stadium and referred it to the 2023 parks and recreation comprehensive plan process.

Mayor Patrick Johnstone said the city will need to invest some money in this building, but the details of that investment have not yet been determined.

"I have to say that there's something really iconic about that building, about where it sits in the in the park, where it sits in Queens Park, the Art Deco design at the back of that building," he said. "It really is a bit of a jewel."

While he "would love to see this building restored and brought back to its old glory – not necessarily in the shape that it is right now, but maybe in a different configuration," Johnstone said he’s looking forward to hearing from the community during the parks and recreation comprehensive plan process.

Coun. Daniel Fontaine said it was “disturbing” to see the condition of the stadium.

“This goes back many councils, in my opinion, and a lack of investment in these particular sport infrastructure, and hence, the condition that it's in today, notwithstanding the fact that it's an old building,” he said. “I've seen a lot of old buildings, a lot of old sports stadiums, that with proper maintenance, they last a long time; they can last well beyond what their so-called end of life is. And unfortunately, this particular piece of infrastructure doesn't pass the test.”

Staff could not immediately respond to Fontaine's question about how much money the city has invested in upgrades and maintenance to the stadium in the past decade, but said they could bring that information back to council.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said the staff report really focused on seating, but he hopes future discussions will consider using the stadium as a “good niche venue” in New West. Whenever happens with the stadium needs to consider accessibility improvements, he said, as the current facility “is really deficient” in that regard.

Coun. Ruby Campbell said the consultant reached out to user groups, but only a few responded. She’s pleased that the broader community will have an opportunity to share input about the future needs of the stadium through the parks and recreation comprehensive plan.

Once the city has selected a firm to help with that process, staff will have more clarity on its timeline and the public engagement, Gibson said.

A staff report said the study concluded a major retrofit or replacement of the Queen’s Park Stadium is required in the short-term future.

Another conclusion was that several additional elements of infrastructure are warranted to support existing participant-oriented uses of the site for up to 500 seats. That includes parking, public washrooms, team dressing rooms, storage for user groups and the city, a multipurpose room for special events to accommodate event staging and administration, and/or food and beverage service spaces.

Next steps on the stadium project include defining the potential scope of the project and confirming a project budget.

Anticipating that the stadium will require an "infrastructure retrofit," the city's 2023-2027 capital plan includes a provisional amount of $2 million, but this will be updated and brought to council as the project scope is finalized.