Edmonton Heritage Festival Association executive director Jim Gibbon said they have been considering new multiple sites, but the one he likes best is Blatchford, located north of downtown near NAIT and Kingsway Mall.
“I think Blatchford is really the place to be,” Gibbon said.
“It’s 58 acres — a little bit bigger than [Hawrelak Park] — it has good access to the Yellowhead, it has LRT right there.”
The site of the old municipal airport is being redeveloped to house to up to 30,000 people. The aim is to make it a sustainable community with its own geothermal district energy facility, LRT access and a large central park space.
“Lots of space, clean, so the perfect spot. Then, everyone that wants to live near festivals can move into Blatchford — help the city sell them,” he said with a laugh.
Gibbon said the festival will stay at the park in the river valley for at least 2020 and 2021, but with Hawrelak slated to shut down for three to nine years for extensive upgrades, they need to plan for another site that can accommodate the festival’s infrastructure.
“We have 70 electrical plugs that we put in here over the years — those would have to be set up in a new site,” Gibbon explained. “We have water that we run that has to be put in a new site. We have layouts for toilets. We have security. So just all of that has to be set up.
“For three days of the year, we’re the third-largest city in Alberta.”
Gibbon said at least one city councillor loves the idea of moving Heritage Festival to Blatchford, but he didn’t say which one.
The German pavilion is one of the original participants in the festival and co-chair Karin Fodor isn’t opposed to a new location. She said while Hawrelak Park is a unique venue with its large green space, there are also drawbacks.
“The festival has grown so much that this is actually too small a space for it,” she said.
“So any move might be really advantageous to continue and give it more opportunities,” Fodor said, adding a new location might provide better transit access given there is only one way for buses to get in and out of Hawrelak Park.
“I think if the flair of the festival stays the same, it doesn’t matter where it is. Because the people, the tents, the culture makes this festival. It’s a beautiful surrounding, but the surrounding doesn’t make the festival.”
Festivalgoers on Monday had mixed feelings about relocating.
“I think that’s a terrible idea,” said Jason Jeffries, who has been to the festival twice. “I think it would just ruin the nature aspect of it. It just wouldn’t be as nice.”
John Smolley attended the event for the first time on Monday and was open to attending again in a new location.
“I think it’s a good decision. I’m not sure where else you would move it,” he said.
Hawrelak Park is set to undergo a rehabilitation project around 2023 to replace 50-year-old utilities such as sewer systems, water distribution, the irrigation network and power lines. After that, the dug-up areas will need to be restored back into working order.
If the city completely closes the park, the work will last three years. If the park is partially closed and work is done around other activities, the project will take as many as nine years to complete.
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