By RYAN MCCRACKEN on October 7, 2020.
Athletic Park could be in for quite the boost following the proposal of $3 million in upgrades at the home of the Medicine Hat Mavericks.
While the proposal – presented at Monday’s city council meeting – is still pending approval at the provincial and federal levels, Mavericks owner and general manager Greg Morrison says he’s thrilled to see Athletic Park listed in the city’s plans.
“It’s awesome that we’re one of the potential projects that could get some support,” said Morrison.
“If this funding happens, it’s great because it shows us there’s some stability in the area, there’s some investment in the area. We like Athletic Park’s location, it’s got a great history down by the river. We do what we can in regard to cleanliness and that sort of thing … and I think you’ve got to tip your hat to the community that helped grow the value of what it became down there as an outdoor facility. I’m just patiently waiting to see how it pans out and what the next step is. I’ll be willing to give any kind of feedback and input, and the city is a great communicator with us. I’m just waiting to see what happens here with that federal and provincial approval.”
Invest Medicine Hat managing director Jason Melhoff says Athletic Park was an ideal candidate for the funding – meant to stoke the pandemic economic slump – due to its location and presence in the community.
“We really identified Athletic Park as a cornerstone to the waterfront development and it really adds to the quality of life for the community,” said Melhoff. “It has been quite some time since we’ve been able to put any investment into that location, so with the criteria that the government had given us, we felt it was prime for utilization of those funds.”
Melhoff added details are still being worked out as to how the funds – which must be spent by the end of 2021 – could be allocated for use at Athletic Park, though a briefing note from Monday’s city council meeting highlighted potential upgrades to seating, canopy, fencing, gates and the ticket office.
Improvements such as these can go a long way, says Morrison, pointing to Okotoks’ Seaman Stadium as an example of a top-notch facility garnering worthy results in the stands each summer.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that places like Okotoks have the best facilities in the league and the biggest crowds in the league. I think a lot of that feeds upon itself,” he said. “Whether it’s players or fans or staff, people want to come to a place that feels like it’s a community space. I think we’ve become that.”