City councillors will, after years of community opposition and debate, finally consider a development proposal for a new Winnipeg Police Service north district station at the end of the month.

City councillors will, after years of community opposition and debate, finally consider a development proposal for a new Winnipeg Police Service north district station at the end of the month.

The roughly 33,000-square-foot facility would be constructed on a 4.9-acre section of the Old Exhibition Grounds at 80 Sinclair St., along with 178 parking spaces and a community ceremonial garden

The proposal will go to the councillors sitting on the Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan community committee hearing Jan. 31. If its endorsed there, it will require a city council vote in order to move forward.

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With 99 per cent of the design now complete, WPS hopes construction can start this year, said Abdul Aziz, manager of the WPS services division.

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With 99 per cent of the design now complete, WPS hopes construction can start this year, said Abdul Aziz, manager of the WPS services division.

The plan requires the demolition of the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre, which would move its operations to a new space at Sergeant Tommy Prince Place Arena, which is also located on the Old Ex grounds.

The arena would be converted into a fieldhouse, tennis courts at the site would be upgraded and an abandoned outdoor ice rink would also be removed to make way for the station.

The proposed location sparked heated debate in 2017, when many residents complained it would eliminate already scarce recreation space in the neighbourhood. But Coun. Markus Chambers, chairperson of the Winnipeg Police Board, said the current design should not have a significant impact on athletes and teams using the grounds.

Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River) said the placement of the station should benefit the surrounding community.

“It (new north district police station) enhances community safety in the area… having that bulk or nucleus of people and activities going on, (there are many) more eyes on the street.” – Coun. Markus Chambers

"It enhances community safety in the area… having that bulk or nucleus of people and activities going on, (there are many) more eyes on the street," he said, adding he envisions the ceremonial garden as a place to host Indigenous community events where members of the police service would be welcome.

"Those are the opportunities to connect the service with the community… it would be involved in activities of a cultural nature that would allow police to be part of those activities and build those relationships," he said.

The garden is expected to feature medicinal plants, birch trees, a lockable fire pit and natural seating (such as stumps and boulders), while also including space to "permit the installation of a teepee," a city report notes.

The first plan to locate the station at the Old Ex Grounds was abandoned about five years ago over its potential impact on recreation, including a risk it might displace the North Winnipeg Nomads football club. The site was chosen again in 2020 after a new design with a smaller footprint was created to allow sports fields to, largely, remain in place.

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Proposed North District Police Station Winnipeg Police Service. The proposal will go to the councillors sitting on the Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan community committee hearing Jan. 31.

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Proposed North District Police Station Winnipeg Police Service. The proposal will go to the councillors sitting on the Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan community committee hearing Jan. 31.

At least one community group still has concerns, fearing it could add unwanted traffic near a well-used recreation area.

"If you’ve got kids running out in the field and (more traffic) coming in and out of there (that’s a concern)," said Darrell Warren, president of the William Whyte Residents Association. "The other thing that concerns me is if they (eventually) need more space for parking (or an expansion) what are they going to do, expropriate more field?"

Warren doesn’t oppose the decision to build a new police station but believes there are better locations for it.

"The Old Ex… is a beautiful site and we’d hate to lose (any of) that green space," he said.

There are baseball diamonds on the grounds in addition to the football field.

Both Chambers and the Winnipeg Police Service have said replacement is urgently needed for the current north district station at 266 Hartford Ave., which is nearing the end of its useful life.

For at least two years, WPS has warned that facility suffers from leaks and plumbing issues, leaving it at great risk of a sudden closure.

“The current station has been in a bad condition and only critical repairs were done in the last few years, further deteriorating the station.” – Abdul Aziz

"The current station has been in a bad condition and only critical repairs were done in the last few years, further deteriorating the station," Abdul Aziz, manager of the WPS services division told the Free Press Tuesday in an emailed statement.

With 99 per cent of the design now complete, WPS hopes construction can start this year, Aziz added.

The city has approved $25.7-million for the station, though finance officials warn the price could rise to nearly $27.9 million, depending on construction bids. Another $5.9 million from the city’s recreation and library investment strategy would be spent to upgrade the Old Ex Arena.

Joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.