The seating area at Meadow Lake’s Stampede Grounds may not be open much longer.
At their regular meeting, members of city council were in complete agreement to close the structure to public access until a public consultation can be held in 2018.
Over the last several years, the aging structure requires an engineering assessment every two years to ensure it was safe for public use. The price tag for repairs in 2015 was over $36,000, and this year when the assessment was done, the estimate to bring them up to code is $115,000 or more.
In her recommendation to council, city manager Diana Burton said administration doesn’t believe it is financially viable to keep repairing the current grandstands, which are mostly used for chuckwagon and horse races a few times in the summer months.
“A decision will need to be made about whether the stands should be replaced or permanently removed,” she said. “Continuing to invest money into an aging structure that is rarely used does not seem to be a sound investment of public money. However, as the grandstands and stampede grounds both have a long history in the community, administration does not recommend making any permanent decisions about the future of the facility without first holding a community consultation.”
Deputy Mayor Merlin Seymour noted the city needs to think of the safety of its citizens.
“It’s about liability,” he said at the council meeting. “If the engineers aren’t going to stamp it without us spending X amount of dollars, there’s no way we can take a chance of something happening.”
Upon hearing of the temporary closure, Loretta King, whose family is heavily involved with stampede events and chuckwagon races in Meadow Lake, put a call out on social media to form a committee to help support the grandstands. She said she understands the current structure isn’t safe, but believes there is a need for seating for the yearly events held at the stampede grounds.
“I think it’s important because it’s very historical in our community and northern Saskatchewan,” she said. “Informally as of now, we’re trying to form a committee so that we can help make something that safe and suitable for everybody. We know that council can’t do it all on their own, I think they need the extra support of the community in order to proceed with events.”
The Lions Club, who have sponsored the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon races for the last number of years will not be hosting the event this year in light of the closure of the grandstands.
“I think there are ways to continue to have the chuckwagons here [in the future],” King said.
She said while it’s still early in the process, lots of ideas to save the structure have already come to light, including fundraising for a new set, rebuilding them.
“There’s so many people with so many good ideas, I can’t wait to start hearing what everybody has to say,” King said. “I can see it happening where maybe we help other events [take place] there in the future.”
There is no date set yet for public consultation meetings.
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