LAC LA BICHE - It’s been just over 11 years since the Bold Center’s multi-purpose fitness, recreation and event space opened its doors to support year-round activities for the Lac La Biche County community. Alongside the 250,000 square foot space, this summer, new outdoor additions that are part of a four-year project have been added.
The three-phase $16 million Bold Center Outdoor Sports Fields Project saw phase two components completed earlier this year, with the final phase slated to be operational in the near future, said the County’s CAO of Recreation and Community Services Darrell Lessmeister.
“It’s a long time coming, we've been working on the concept and design which we are doing over three phases,” he said, with the first phase being the outdoor race track surrounding the artificial turf field which opened during the pandemic.
The phase two additions utilized during the 2022 spring and summer seasons include three ball diamonds, a soccer field, tennis/pickleball and basketball courts, sporting event bleachers and a press box, he explained. With the new outdoor additions that are continuing to tie the space together, Lessmeister says the public has been flocking to the area even more.
“We’ve seen the basketball and tennis courts relocated to the area and it has gone really well. The community is really embracing having new facilities,” he explained. The ball diamonds have been rented for events and the public has been picking up equipment to test the new courts regularly.
"We'll see more use of the entire area with the sports field. It’s a good connection here with the whole centre,” he said, especially with the 35-stall campground space just north of the sports field.
“The campground is also there to support the sports fields… It’s a very short distance linking and completing the outdoor space,” that is open for residents and tourists.
Currently, an outdoor washroom facility slated in phase three of the project is on hold due to increased cost projections, he added.
An outdoor patio space in front of the Bold Center is expected to be operational in the coming months, said Lessmeister.
“A lot of that stuff is coming. It’s been - as anything with COVID - ordering and getting the supplies in can take a long time with backorders. But that’s happening and we’ll see that this fall.”
The project saw a $99,000 contribution from the federal Healthy Communities Initiative grant this summer. The space, which will include seating and an outdoor fireplace, can be utilized in the winter and spring.
Outdoor sports winterized
With the pandemic affecting many social activities over the years, the outdoor projects nearing completion couldn’t have come at a better time, said Lessmeister. But as the outdoor season winds down, much of the recreation and fitness options will be inside, he explained.
“We’ve already winterized a lot of our irrigation systems so that we don’t have any damage to them. Our artificial turf field gives us a little bit more of an extended time." But as winter nears, all components will soon be closed and scheduled to reopen in April, he said.
The indoor offerings are continuing to draw attention as well. Bold Center memberships saw a 178 per cent increase; while drop-in passes saw a 55 per cent increase this September as the school season returned and the cooler weather started to set in, said Staci Lattimer, the County’s manager of recreation and culture.
“It's great to see... And now that the weather is getting colder, we're finding it's getting even busier,” Lattimer said. An increase in memberships, more kids and adult activities, and overall increased attendance at the two ice rinks and field houses in the facility are also being seen.
Throughout September, 20,098 visitors walked through the Bold Center doors compared to August, which saw 13,439 visits. While the pandemic changed the way residents accessed recreation, things look promising moving forward.
“Up until August, we were sitting probably about 50 per cent of our membership sales pre-COVID, but September has changed all that again. Sales are coming in, people are coming back.”
With many subsidized and free services including sponsored skates and swims, along with the free indoor track, the site will hopefully continue to draw more guests, said Lattimer.
“It's really a connection point for a lot of people. It's a hub and people come in and they'll spend, you know, three to four hours… there’s something for everyone.”