North side to get new sports field
Willie O'Ree Place | Mayor to announce more details Jan. 13

By Heather McLaughlin

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside has been trying to keep the lid on a major new sports initiative for the capital city.

The Daily Gleaner has learned that Woodside will announce a new northside sports field Jan. 13 when he delivers his assessment of the state of the city at the gala opening of the convention centre.

The event, which is hosted by the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, will mark the opening of the $78-million downtown eastend complex.

Woodside will be announcing the name of a benefactor who will co-fund the sports field to be located alongside Willie O'Ree Place on Fredericton's north side.

"Having sports fields at both Grant*Harvey and Willie O'Ree Place has been a goal of the city's recreational master plan. There's no secret in that," the mayor said.

"It's something we've been looking at for quite some time.

"We've been working on putting this package together for a year and without a major partner, it couldn't be done.''

Beyond that, Woodside won't confirm the name of the city's partner on the project, nor would he give additional details.

"You'll have to wait until Jan. 13th," he said.

However, The Daily Gleaner has located the budget line item for Fredericton's contribution of $840,000 to the project.

Fredericton city councillors voted behind closed doors to tuck away the city's portion of the sports field funding under the nondescript header of a capital investment reserve.

The money is part of the city's $97.9-million, 2011 city general fund and capital budget.

Although city council decided to debate the majority of its budget in the public eye unless the discussion was going to involve cuts to personnel, there was no public talk about the proposed sports field at an open budget meeting.

Only three of the city's 11 budget meetings were closed to the public and media on that basis.

Woodside said he expects large projects in the future will involve partnerships.

In the meantime, Woodside said he's been advised that the convention centre will be ready for the special evening Jan. 13.

A reassessment of the status of last-minute construction on the building this week indicates the city can open the convention centre on time.

"I've been told it's going to be ready for the state of the city address and the ribbon cutting on the 13th," Woodside said.

Any project goes through last-minute fixes, he said.

"There may be some stuff in the building that may not be finished, but as far as our needs are concerned for Jan. 13, I've been told it will be ready."

The provincial government office building under construction as part of the development isn't slated to be finished for about three months.