Build it and they will come.
The District of Squamish is teaming up with one of Canada's leading event production agencies and Squamish Slow Pitch Association (SSPA) to explore land options to expand the Squamish Valley Music Festival. On the table is the possibility of upgrading Squamish's soccer field's irrigation to accommodate the three-day concert or twinning the community's softball fields.
Organizers of the event anticipate the festival will hit capacity this year, the concert's executive producer Paul Runnals told The Chief. Held at the Logger Sports Grounds, the festival can host 13,000 attendees — a figure it came shy of by 2,000 people last year. Ticket sales alone grew by 39 per cent in 2012.
The festival's dates were switched from late to early August to fit with the North American music touring schedule. This will help entice big-name international bands to the concert; in turn increasing turnout, Runnals said. While officials are looking to boost the allowance number this year through improved site layout, in the long run they'll need more room, Runnals said.
"Increased land space is of interest to us," he said.
Pemberton is aggressively pursuing the return of its three-day music concert, Pemberton Festival, Runnals noted. Squamish Valley Music Festival organizers must be aware of what they're up against to move forward, Runnals told the district's committee of the whole on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
"To remain competitive we need to understand what our future growth may be," he said.
Early stages of discussion are underway to investigate costs, potential partnerships and the possibility of building two new Hendrickson fields beside the existing diamonds, said Dan McRae, the district's economic sustainability coordinator.
"There are a bunch of synergies that are coming together," he said. "Overall, there are some benefits that could be realized for a large number of groups."
New baseball pitches could be open to minor ball, fast pitch and three quarter size soccer, as well as making room for the music festival, McRae noted. The SSPA recently finished payments on a $150,000 loan, covering half the construction cost of Hendrickson Field 2, he said, adding the association makes an approximate annual net income of up to $43,000.
"There is some capacity there in terms of financing," McRae said.
Coun. Bryan Raiser questioned the dollars and sense behind twinning the baseball fields. It could cost the community millions, he warned.
"The slo-pitch fields, I don't see them as something that is needed in our community right now," Raiser said.
The slow pitch association is outgrowing Squamish's facilities, SSPA president Dave Southam said. With approximately 700 players and 35 teams, the association has to play on school fields which aren't within regulation standards nor safe, he said. Playgrounds and other obstacles around the grounds pose hazards, Southam noted,
Compounding the situation, this week the Sea to Sky School District stated Don Ross school fields are not available for the SSPA's 2013 season — amounting to a loss of 15 per cent of the group's field use.
The inadequate facilities have forced the association to turn down hosting two provincial slo-pitch tournament, events comprised of 60 teams and approximately 1,000 players. It's a loss for local businesses, Southam said. Vernon's Funtastic Slo-Pitch Tournament has an annual economic impact of approximately $4.5 million for local businesses, stated a district staff report.
Southam said he's encouraged by the direction of discussions.
"We want to make it happen," he said.