City expands Masich Place hours

The City of Prince George heard "loud and clear" that residents weren't happy with the proposed public access hours at Masich Place Stadium, according to Mayor Lyn Hall and city director of public works Gina Layte Liston.

A report to city council dated July 23 said the public track walking hours at the refurbished facility would be limited to 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., seven days a week - unless the facility had been booked by a user group. However, a new report presented to city council on Monday night expands those hours to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, except when booked by other groups.

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"We heard loud and clear from many of you, hundreds and hundreds," Hall said. "I had personal friends call me and ask what I thought we were doing."

Layte Liston said a public access schedule for Masich Place has been prepared for August, and additional schedules will be made public for future months. The stadium is scheduled to reopen on Aug. 7.

"It is important to note that the schedule may change to reflect use by user groups," Layte Liston said.

The Masich Place track will be closed to walkers while other groups have the facility booked she said, as in the past there have been conflicts between walkers and user groups -including collisions between players and walkers.

"When a user group books the facility, the user must have $5 million in liability insurance. That doesn't cover people walking on the track," she said.

Bookings for Masich Place Stadium are expected to increase by approximately 60 per cent, she said, with groups like UNBC's varsity soccer teams looking to use the facility.

Additional staff will be required to operate the facility, Layte Liston said, and those will be presented to city council as part of their budget considerations in 2019. Part of the work being done on site will be to prevent vandalism - the stadium has previously suffered from damaged water fountains, fires set in the washrooms and under bleachers, damaged sinks and toilets, along with graffiti.

Vandalism remains a problem, even during daytime hours, Layte Liston said. For example, the washrooms at Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park -which are closed at night -have been vandalized six times in the past month, she said.

City director of external relations Rob van Adrichem said the city will communicate the Masich Place schedule through a new website, as well as through the city's social media platforms and the traditional media. The August schedule was not available on the website as of 9 p.m. on Monday.

The city will also be conducting a survey for residents to provide feedback on the new facility and its operations, van Adrichem said.

Coun. Brian Skakun said he, like many of his council colleagues, received numerous complaints via phone and email about the original schedule, and he had to agree with them.

"It's unfortunate we had to go this route," Skakun said. "This is an amazing facility... but we can't forget the person who does not belong to a (sports) group and wants to go alone with friends to walk the track."

Coun. Garth Frizzell said the fact the proposed schedule was revised before it even found its way to city council is proof that when Prince George talks, the city listens.

"I was surprised people were so angry. It is just a matter of changing a schedule, after all," he said. "(But) when I talked to a young mom today... it was a safe place she could take her kids while she got her workout. When she'd found out abruptly she wasn't going to be able to use it because of her schedule, she felt ripped off."

Coun. Terri McConnachie said the new schedule is the right balance.

"This is a win-win right now," she said.

"It's a great facility. But we can't all use it at the same time."

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