The bad news is it's back to the drawing board for the layout of the Horse Creek Sports Park.

The good news is the park now appears to be on the radar of town council and administration.

In an update to town council on May 1,  Community Services director Mitchell Hamm proposed using a phased approach to get work underway sooner. Right now, funding is only allocated for the stripping and grading of the property starting in July 2024. Hamm intends to request additional funding in the 2024 town budget to complete an initial phase.

"With the budget request for the phase one approach, we will have kids playing on the fields in 2025," he told council.

But before that happens, the master plan will need to be changed. While doing exploratory work on the project, it was determined additional stormwater management will be required. The adjustment would have placed the proposed future school site of Rocky View Schools into the Inter Pipeline Ltd. evacuation zone, something unacceptable.

Now, it is proposed the school site be moved to the southwest corner of the property, adjacent to Horse Creek Rd., and the sports park be placed to the east, basically reversing the original layout.

Mitchell laid out an anticipated timeline for 2023. In the second quarter, the intention is to have Rocky View Schools review the proposed new location of the school, followed by registering the school parcel as a municipal reserve. The sports park concept will also be refined.

In the third quarter, he anticipates public hearings on the land's use, and the completion of both the grading and servicing design and detailed park design.

In the fourth quarter, a refined budget will be presented for council's consideration that reflects the phased approach.

Councillor Tara NcFadden, who chairs the parks and recreation committee, says the committee was provided an update last week

"We understood the need for the changes and that as long as the principles and the identified needs were served on that site, the group supported the change in the alignments," says McFadden.

For years, it seemed town councillor Tara McFadden, who chairs the parks and recreation committee, was a lone voice on council advocating for some progress on the eagerly-awaited park.

"I am excited here council is starting to focus more on recreation needs and if we can dedicate our passion and commitment to solving our recreation needs as we did with traffic, we can really move the mark on this," she said Monday night.

Councillor Morgan Nagel was concerned the project wasn't included in the town's 10-year capital strategy and could be giving residents false hope.

"I think we need to get serious about allocating funding for It or be sure to let the community know that there is no funding for it when it keeps on coming to these public meetings," said Nagel. "I think we're setting expectations and I'd imagine real estate agents and developers in the area are telling everybody this thing is getting built. But we're 10s of millions of dollars away from building it."

Completion of the entire project was projected to cost about $50 million when the master site plan was approved by council in 2021.

While McFadden agrees the sports park should be part of the 10-year financial plan, she remains optimistic.

"What I really appreciate about this is as much as there is a setback and a change of the design, it's finally looking like the rubber is hitting the road on providing some playing fields and answering some recreational needs."