The chair of the Vancouver Sport Network's facilities committee is surprised at how quickly the park board moved to house artists by allowing them access to field houses.
Anne Thompson said some city sports groups have long lobbied the park board for improvements and access to field houses adjacent to sports fields.
"It's frustrating because some sports groups have been asking for years, but it's been so quick and easy for this artist proposal to go ahead," she said.
The park board is opening five empty caretaker houses for its new Field House Studio Residency Program. While the field houses are described by the park board as "empty," and many no longer have caretakers, some are used as storage for sports equipment from amateur leagues.
The program will see the field houses converted to studios in exchange for 350 hours of community involvement from the chosen artists.
The field houses available are at Elm, Falaise, Hadden, Slocan and Strathcona parks. The sports groups using the Elm Park field house have been told they can move their equipment to Carnarvon Park on West 19th Avenue at Mackenzie Street, which is closer to where they play.
But Thompson said the park board dropped the ball when it came to Elm Park, which includes a baseball diamond. Its field house is used to store football equipment.
"These sports groups want Carnarvon and Elm," Thompson said. "Why can't they put the artists at Kerrisdale Community Centre? It's only a couple of blocks away. Both of these other parks are beside sports fields."
She added with more residents moving into condos and apartments, sports groups have a growing need for equipment storage.
"Storage doesn't make headlines, but it is vital to the sport organizations run by volunteers in our neighbourhoods," Thompson said.
Vision Vancouver park board chair Sarah Blyth, who first proposed making field houses available to artists, said sports groups are being considered for field house use.
"We want to make sure sports groups have a place, too," said Blyth.
Blyth confirmed the field house at Carnarvon is scheduled for major renovations, including the construction of proper storage space, improved concession and outdoor seating.
"We are absolutely considering other field houses for sports groups," she said. "Some communities want a focus on sports."
NPA commissioner John Coupar told the Courier allowing artists and sports groups access to field houses increases park use. He noted the more convenient it is for residents to participate in sports and enjoy this city's parks, the greater the use.
But East Side resident Barb Hertzein questions what the park board considers "art."
In an email to the Courier, Hertzein wrote in part, "- At a time when parks board is supposedly struggling to meet the budget and making cuts to services, staff, lifeguards and community centre hours, I question how we can justify an artist in residence program that evolves around ideas such as 'International Nap Day.'"
In her email, Hertzein also refers to the "Sing to the Fish" event, which was an under-water performance as part of the concerts for animals series.
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