Promises of big-ticket projects are flying fast and furious from some mayoral candidates and their slates while their political rivals express skepticism as Surrey’s civic election campaign 2022 enters its final stretch.
Surrey mayoral candidate Jinny Sims said Tuesday if she and her Surrey Forward slate are elected Oct. 15 the city will get a 10,000-seat soccer stadium and performing arts centre as part of a new arts, entertainment and sports district to be completed by 2026, in the area of Tom Binnie Park in Whalley. That’s the planned location for now. “It depends on if a better location can be found,” she told the Now-Leader.
Sims said during a campaign presser the proposed project would also include office buildings and residential towers.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to put Surrey in the world’s eye, one that we cannot pass up by short-sighted politicians fighting over decisions made in the past decade,” Sims says.
The performing arts centre, she said, would feature two theatres, the largest with between 800 to 1,400 seats and will be designed to accommodate “large touring shows such as cultural dance performances, Broadway shows, musical acts and the like.”
The second theatre would be between 200 and 400 seats be designed to “accommodate community theatre and foster the development of professional dance and theatre companies in Surrey.”
The entertainment district, meantime, would include restaurants, “night life and other year-round entertainment activities.”
The soccer stadium, according to a Surrey Forward press release, would be built to “attract” a Canadian Premier League style club, “ideally with both a male and female professional soccer team.”
“We will complete this by 2026 to ensure we are able to participate completely in the World Cup. Surrey will look to host a national team at our facility as a warm-up and training facility. Ideally we will welcome the world through friendly training matches and preparation for games in Vancouver,” Sims said. “Should Vancouver and their First Nations partners be successful in the bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics the City of Surrey will participate in the performing arts elements of the games.”
The proposed project has not been costed out. “I’m not worried about the cost because there is infrastructure money available as well and this is regional infrastructure we are building,” Sims said. “It’s also going to be in the hub of public transit.”
Coun. Linda Annis, seeking election with Surrey First, said her slate was planning to drop an announcement after press time, as was mayoral candidate Sukh Dhaliwal’s United Surrey.
Surrey First says it will build a 10-year plan “for more parks, pools, fields, rinks, and community centres.”
Dhaliwal said the promises he and his slate are making are “something we can achieve” as opposed to “fantasy” projects rooted in “desperate attempts” to get elected.
“It’s not about the big announcements or fantasy or serving a couple of your insider friends,” he said, adding his announcement Wednesday would centre on what United Surrey plans to do in its first 100 days, if elected. “It will be policy, and projects will be a part of it,” he said, which will include a tax freeze and address ethics and accountability.
Meantime, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said last week if he and his Safe Surrey Coalition are elected to council on Oct. 15 a full-size indoor swimming pool will be built at the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in Whalley.
“I would hope that we’ll have it finished within two years,” he said, adding it “probably” will replace the skateboard park on site.
“The reason I say it probably will, if we can fit it in over on the side over there we’ll do that but if we can’t it probably will be right here,” he said, speaking to reporters at the southwest corner of the recreation centre, located at 13458 107A Avenue.
Amid the din of construction and seagulls, McCallum announced from a podium that the “number one thing” people want to see in Surrey, “especially here in North Surrey,” is a pool. Asked how much this pool will cost, McCallum replied “we haven’t really looked at it,” but added, “I’ll give you a figure, it’s in about the $40 million-$50 million for the pool.”
Asked how it would be paid for, McCallum replied, “Well, it will be in our capital budget that we do every year.
“We have room in that budget for this pool.”
Coun. Brenda Locke, mayoral candidate for Surrey Connect, echoed Dhaliwal’s comments. “We’re not going to do anything that we can’t cost,” she said, “and we’re very firm on that, and the reason is we’re heading in a recession in 2023-24 perhaps, we don’t know where the money is, we’ve just doubled the debt load to the municipal finance authority. I think all of these pools and all this is highly irresponsible and we won’t do it.”
Locke noted McCallum has promised three pools. She said she asked the city manager how much it would cost to build a pool. “$100 million a pool, he said.”
“We can’t do this, like this is just election-buying. We are going to commit absolutely to everything to do with public safety and building as much capacity as we can, but we’re not going to do it on our own, we’re going to talk to the residents and let them decide. Show them the budget, we’re going to be very transparent about the budget and then we’ll have a conversation about the toys we can provide but we’re not going to do it ahead of it.”
If elected, Locke said, Surrey Connect will end the $10 fee for Freedom of Information requests for people seeking info related to the City of Surrey.
“We believe that access to information should be accessible for everyone, and that’s why we will be dropping the fee for information requests, if elected,” she said. “The current fee for each information request is a minimum of $10. The Surrey Connect team sees the fee as a barrier for the public. By eliminating the fee, residents will see we are serious about transparency and good government.”
Last week, Sims said if Surrey Forward is elected it will within two years create four new Business Improvement Associations, in South Surrey, Guildford, Clayton and Newton Village (80 Avenue & 128 Street).
“Small businesses are key to the success of the City of Surrey,” Sims said in a press release. “Promoting small businesses is the best job creation program the City of Surrey can support. BIA’s make it easy for businesses to have control of their own future, build their business and connect with one another.”
Surrey Forward notes Vancouver has 22 BIAs while Surrey “only has” four, in Newton, Downtown Surrey, Fleetwood and Cloverdale.