Surrey's municipal government is still months away from moving into its shiny new city offices in the heart of Whalley, but it sounds like some of the decision makers have been sampling the wares offered by the freelance pharmacists who dwell in the area.
Either that, or it's time for the RCMP to take a closer look at what sort of plants are growing in the gardens around the current city hall.
I say this after the city stated its desire to "advance Surrey as a leader in the industry and premier destination for regional and international sporting events."
Is this some kind of joke? To put this delicately, when it comes to hosting major sporting events, Surrey is like a wayward traveller standing at the pier with a pair of suitcases and looking longingly at the ocean hours after the ship has sailed.
The city can blather on about all the wonderful amenities available to residents and, indeed, there are plenty of recreational opportunities in Surrey with well maintained ice arenas, swimming pools, community centres, playing fields, cricket pitches, ball diamonds and skate parks. Heck, there's even a kabaddi field.
Surrey has one of the youngest populations in the province with more than 1,000 people moving here each month, many of them families who make use of these spaces.
But if the goal is to attract major events of regional, national and international significance, then there's a problem.
The only indoor facility of any size is South Surrey Arena, which seats roughly 1,000 spectators and, as I understand it, can only be used for ice-based events.
Apparently the building is not equipped with a sprinkler system over the playing surface, which precludes using the facility for dry floor sporting events.
When we move outdoors, the landscape becomes truly jarring. The city wants to welcome the world to major sporting events in a place that doesn't even have the most rudimentary stadium facilities. Having friends and family risk slivers and wet bums by sitting on the weathered, mossy planks of the "temporary bleachers" - 20 years and counting - of Bear Creek Park is fine for a one-off community-based event like the B.C.
Summer Games. But does such a dilapidated structure make the grade when you're aspiring to be "a leader in the industry and premier destination" for sporting events?
Surrey's dishonour roll as a sports venue is not a short one.
The PGA Tour's Air Canada Championship and the Canadian Tour's Surrey Open have both come and gone, but the loss of those events was tied more to sponsorship dollars than the superb hosting golf courses.
WLA lacrosse - gone. B.C. junior lacrosse - gone. B.C. junior football - gone.
And the main cause cited by the teams at their departure was the need for suitable facilities in the city.
Of course, Surrey did take a stab at building a stadium, but all the resulting Stetson Bowl debacle did was stain the resumÃ©s of every person associated with the project - including the players on the one-and-done Surrey Glaciers baseball team.
The lone glimmer of success rests with softball, a sport that has established an international home in Surrey through events like the Canada Cup and the Canadian Open and is currently in the running to bring the world championships here in 2016.
It must be noted, however, that the centrepiece for the Surrey bid is Softball City, a facility that was built with private dollars way back in the 1990s.
Unfortunately for Surrey, the time to act on the goal of becoming a sports destination of note was back when those sodden planks in Bear Creek Park still smelled of fresh sawdust.
At that time, there were no ice arenas in the Lower Mainland that seated more than 2,000 spectators unless you wanted to boost your bottom line by renting the Pacific Coliseum. Outdoors, there was just Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, Thunderbird Stadium at UBC and not a lot else.
That was the time for Surrey to act and build the kind of venues that would create a sporting culture to draw the bigger events to town. Need proof?
Check out Kamloops, a smaller Interior city that built facilities at that time and has since been able to brand itself as Canada's tournament destination.
Sorry to break this to Surrey officials, but it's now too late. Today there are gleaming multi-use sports palaces in Burnaby, Richmond, Langley, Abbotsford and Coquitlam. Anyone looking to host a sports event in an outdoor stadium without the need for a tetanus shot can consider venues in Coquitlam, Burnaby and Abbotsford.
Surrey does not have the facilities to accommodate any event that draws larger crowds and to build them now would be creating a glut of such buildings in the region. Why build a new 5,000-seat arena or outdoor stadium when there are similar shiny new structures less than five miles away in Langley? All Surrey would be creating is redundant buildings that will make it even more difficult to compete for the events needed to make such structures financially viable.
Surrey officials would be wise to stick to the recreational pursuits they know best and refrain from sampling those funky little mushrooms growing in the lawn at city hall.
Michael Booth can be reached at mbooth@ thenownewspaper.com
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