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Holland College still negotiating with province to acquire large Charlottetown property

It’s full of snow, now but the Charlottetown Event Grounds could be home to a sports field in the near future for Holland College. Sandy MacDonald, president of the college, said they are in talks with the province to acquire the property. Events like the Jack Frost Winterfest and P.E.I. Shellfish Festival would still be held at the site.
It’s full of snow, now but the Charlottetown Event Grounds could be home to a sports field in the near future for Holland College. Sandy MacDonald, president of the college, said they are in talks with the province to acquire the property. Events like the Jack Frost Winterfest and P.E.I. Shellfish Festival would still be held at the site. - Jim Day
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Holland College remains in negotiations with the province to acquire the Charlottetown Event Grounds.

Sandy MacDonald, president of the college, said they’ve had 10 to 12 meetings with the province and various other players since October when their interest in the property became public.

Those various players include the City of Charlottetown, the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation, which currently owns the property, the Downtown Business Association, the P.E.I. Shellfish Association and officials with the Jack Frost Winterfest.

MacDonald said if and when the college takes over the event grounds, events such as the P.E.I. Shellfish Festival and Jack Frost Winterfest will continue to take place at the site. He even noted that there are plans to possibly expand the shellfish festival.

“The next step would be looking at what kind of governance model we’d have for all the players,’’ MacDonald said. “We’re working very hard with the shellfish (association) and with Jack Frost and the city . . . to find a solution where everybody is happy with what we can come up with. We want to make sure it will be available for (other) events in the future as well.’’

The college had at one time considered expanding its parking capacity into the event grounds, but those plans have been shelved.

“No, there won’t be any expansion to the parking.’’

Holland College’s primary interest in the property is using the green space at the event grounds as a playing/practicing field for its athletes.

“We have a significant number of athletes and intramural people and we’ve got no place for them to play or practice,’’ he said, adding that the field would be available for use for local schools as well.

“We’re talking an all-purpose field. We’d like a field that can accommodate soccer (and) football. We’re also looking at some other sports. Our international students have shown some interest in things like cricket. Even when you have the Jack Frost or shellfish festival (there), much of the land is underutilized. We think it would be a great green space/recreational space for our students and our partner schools.’’

MacDonald said the college isn’t sure how much the property acquisition would cost.

“We haven’t even looked at that yet for the simple reason that unless we get an agreement with all of our partners there’s not much use of us looking at a price.’’

His first priority once an agreement is reached is to hold a public meeting to bring residents up to speed.

“It’s taken a little bit more time than we wanted, but . . . we are optimistic we can get this done. It may take a little more time.’’

Stu Dunn, operations manager with Eastlink Centre which has managed the site since 2013, said they haven’t been consulted yet about the college’s plans.

Dunn said he’s happy to hear that Jack Frost and the shellfish festival will continue, considering the two events pull in, on average, about $50,000 (money they split with CADC) in rental fees and ticket sales per year. When Shania Twain played there in 2014, they pulled in more than $100,000. Eastlink Centre does not get paid a management fee. While Eastlink Centre splits ticket fees (service fees or surcharge on top of the ticket price) with CADC that doesn't mean total ticket sales. The money goes to Jack Frost or the shellfish festival.

He is concerned about how a sports field might affect the ability to host concerts in the future, explaining that something would have to be used to cover and protect the turf.

“I’m sure at some point everyone will come together on this,’’ Dunn said.


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