City of Surrey working on new plan for Cloverdale Fairgrounds

CLOVERDALE — It’s a question that comes up time and time again, but never seems to get answered: What to do with the Cloverdale Fairgrounds?

A multi-rink arena. A trade centre. An amusement park.

All have been suggested, but none have come to fruition.

Surrey council is now embarking upon a "visioning" exercise to firm up new plans for the fairgrounds, in the hopes of attracting investment from the private sector and senior levels of government and, ultimately, action on the site.

The property has been home to the Cloverdale Rodeo since 1938.

Once the site for blue-ribbon cattle, it’s now popular for flea market Sundays and professional wrestling shows. Last summer, the Surrey Night Market debuted there, and its second season kicks off May 29.

Coun. Tom Gill described the 137-acre site as the "crown jewel" of Surrey.

He wants to see something "exceptionally creative" done with the site.

Gill could see an entertainment district at the site, similar to that on Richmond’s Triangle Road.

"My son plays hockey there," at Richmond Ice Centre, which has six rinks. "Across the street they have a nice, big, grand movie theatre, behind that is a bowling alley, then they’ve got an aquatic centre, laser tag, a play centre for the kids," he continued. "I always scratch my head and say, ‘Well this is kind of insane where it’s located."

Cloverdale’s fairgrounds would be a perfect spot for such attractions, according to Gill.

"With a third of our population being under the age of 19, giving youth some creative opportunities to do some good things and keeping them busy, is important.

"These are just thoughts in the back of my mind," he continued, adding the city will now get public input to see what residents and businesses want done there.

Coun. Bruce Hayne noted there’s been all sorts of ideas for the property over the years – everything from a convention centre to a soccer facility to condo developments.

"We’ve looked at the redevelopment of the fairgrounds, it sort of starts and stops, starts and stops…. That’s because up until now the private sector hasn’t been on board."

Determining the city’s vision is crucial to getting partners to the table, he said.

Hayne said during the election campaign he heard the community saying, "Get on with it and build it."

"But get on and build what? If we’re to build it, are we to take on 100 per cent of the costs and the risk? I don’t think the taxpayers of Surrey would want us to operate like that. Whatever it is we do move forward with, it will likely be a P3 arrangement, with the city coming forward with very valuable land."

Paul Orazietti, executive director of the Cloverdale BIA, said designing a good plan for the property will be a "balancing act."

He would like to see an ice rink, noting lots of locals travel to Langley to access proper facilities.

He said he’d also like to see a trade or convention centre, which has been talked about for years.

A problem at the site now, according to Orazietti, is adequate parking for events.

The recent BC Rod and Gun Show drew roughly 8,500 people, he said, and parking was a bit problematic, and he thinks that should be considered in the planning process.

Whatever the decision, he said the property’s central location will lead to success.

"You’ve got easy access for Americans coming up from the border, Highway 10 is such a busy corridor, and we’re just down from Highway 1 and Fraser Highway.

"We’re centrally located, that’s why it’s kind of a shame we have people going into the City of Langley and Abbotsford to access facilities."