Coun. Antoinette Halberstadt (left) looks on as Revelstoke artist Rob Buchanan presents the plans for a new gateway plaza to be located on Track Street behind the Revelstoke Railway Museum. It will serve as an entranceway to Mount Revelstoke National Park. He made the presentation at council's July 12 meeting. It's also worth noting that Coun. Antoinette Halberstadt wore a ceremonial dress to the July 12 city council meeting that was presented to her on a recent trip to Africa. It is known as a Kwanyama dress

Council okays new Track Street gateway plaza to Mt. Revelstoke Park

The concept for a new public art installation to be located on Track Street behind the Revelstoke Railway Museum was unveiled to the public for the first time on July 12.

The concept for a new public art installation to be located on Track Street behind the Revelstoke Railway Museum was unveiled to the public for the first time on July 12.

Revelstoke artist Rob Buchanan presented his concept for a new gateway plaza to council at their July 12 meeting, and also earned council approval for funding.

The installation is called “Tournament of Champions ‘Winner’s Circle,'” and will serve a gateway function at the start of the discontinued roadway that leads up from Track Street to the entrance of Mount Revelstoke National Park. The pathway is the main pedestrian entrance to the park from downtown Revelstoke and is used by hikers, bikers, snowshoers and others to get into the park. The site of the historic Mount Revelstoke ski jumps can be accessed via the trail; they are some of the main attractions in the park that can be accessed from downtown on foot.

Currently, two concrete dividers block the path to motor vehicles and there is nothing in the direct vicinity to indicate the road is a pathway to the park.

Buchanan displayed a table-top model of the concept to council. The piece celebrates Revelstoke’s ski jumping history. It references Mount Revelstoke’s heritage as a ski jumping location in the 1920s through until 1974, including the Tournament of Champions era starting in 1950 that drew international competitors to Revelstoke over a nearly 25-year period.

The plan is based on a semicircular red cobblestone plaza lined with low mortar and stone walls. Ten, eight-metre-high flag poles will fly flags from each of the countries that sent jumpers to compete in the Tournament of Champions events. The plaza features two interpretative panels. Further up the path, a guidance sign will provide info on the trail and park ahead.

A large stainless steel sculpture will be mounted on a concrete plinth in the centre of the plaza. “Simple in form, the sculpture is based on defying gravity through balance – a metaphor for ski-jumping,” Buchanan writes in his artist statement. “The piece is ambiguous: it is a ski jump, it is the trajectory of flight, it is the two skis and imagined presence of a competitor, it is a trophy, a three-dimensional representation of the balance required to ‘fly without wings.’ The plinth has two angles to represent the two transition slopes or landing areas of the A and B Jump.”

Buchanan told council the sculpture also represented the human-powered ebb and flow of ski jumping at the time, and that its form is a “counter-balanced play” on the repetitive rhythms of  ski jumping. “When this was happening, there were no rope tows, chairlifts [and] everything, so going up was just as much a part as going down. These guys would shoulder their big seven-foot skis and hike up.”

Buchanan said the gateway project will compliment other work being undertaken by Parks Canada to highlight the jumps in Mount Revelstoke National Park, including new signage and work to resurrect the judges’ tower at the ski jump sites. Parks Canada also plans to install human-sized cut-outs on the jump depicting the landing spots of world-record jumps by local jumping pioneers like Nels Nelsen, Isabel Coursier and Bob Lynburne. “It’s the only place in Canada where world records were set in ski jumping,” Buchanan noted. “This really is the first layer; this is a gateway piece,” he said of the Track Street installation.

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This is the concept image for the new Tournament of Champions gateway plaza planned for Track Street near the Railway Museum.

The cost

The project came as a recommendation via the city’s Tourism Infrastructure Advisory Committee. It was one of ten projects recommended by the committee that were approved by council, although the new gateway sculpture project was the only one that included a presentation on July 12.

The exact cost of the installation is not known. Buchanan presented a series of budget numbers to council, but it did not include a total. The price ranges included high and low estimates totalling in the $64,000 to $69,000 range, although some smaller costs are yet to be factored in. HST and some shipping costs will be added to that total. The actual budget for the gateway was bundled in with another public art project that will see a sternwheeler display erected in the plaza at the Revelstoke Aquatic Centre. Together, the budget was $96,181, but it remains unclear if there is other funding for these projects.

Funding for the 2011 tourism infrastructure projects is provided through ‘hotel tax’ funding, and is not considered to be municipal taxpayer money. In a nutshell, when Revelstoke opted to become a resort municipality, a new tax was added to the price of hotel and motel room rentals. That tax is then kicked back to the community and is earmarked for tourism infrastructure projects. Members of the Tourism Infrastructure Advisory Committee are mostly tourism industry reps who seek projects they feel will benefit tourism in Revelstoke. Council typically rubber-stamps their recommendations.

Alan Mason, the City of Revelstoke’s economic development director, worked alongside Buchanan to develop the concept over the past year. He said they had vetted the concept with many community groups and stakeholders and had received general support. “Everybody seems to like it,” he said.

The plan is to have the sculpture completed before winter.

Update, July 13: Subsequent to this story being published, Mason provided the price tag for the project, $71,000, plus HST. He did say the city would recover much of the HST costs. He also emphasized, as mentioned in the story, that the hotel tax funding is earmarked for these kind of tourism infrastructure projects and can’t be diverted for other purposes.