The Nelson Soccer Association wants to build a domed indoor soccer facility in the city.
At a Sept. 28 meeting of Nelson City council, the association asked the city for help in funding a feasibility study to decide on a location. The group did not ask for a specific amount, and council will decide on this request at a future meeting.
Association board member Tim Wooldridge proposed four possible locations for the dome: adjacent to Mary Hall at Selkirk College Tenth Street Campus (city-owned), at one of the current Lakeside Park soccer fields (city-owned), at the end of John’s Walk near the former Kootenay Forest Products site (Crown land), or at the west end of Baker Street in Railtown (privately owned).
The Tenth Street location is not the same as the one the city recently leased to the Kootenay Climbing Association for a new climbing gym.
There may be other feasible pieces of land in the city, Wooldridge said, and the association hopes the feasibility study would reveal those.
The estimated cost of the facility, including $300,000 for land, is $3,404,890.
“We have the membership and the fundraising capacity,” Wooldridge said. “We are just looking for a partnership with the city on the land portion.”
Wooldridge’s slide presentation to council can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3rnCBLS.
The facility would be an air-supported dome with artificial turf to provide year-round access to field-based sports in addition to soccer, such as track and field.
The Recreation Commission at the Regional District of Central Kootenay has written a letter of support for the feasibility study.
Wooldridge explained to council that the facility needs to be within the city limits because young people walk to soccer.
Nelson’s current indoor soccer facility is full beyond capacity, he said.
“We are turning youth away. They are not getting the time they would like through the winter season.”
Membership and Nelson’s population are both rising, he said, and in recent pre-pandemic years the association has had 1,200 to 1,500 members. There is an increasing need for high-level coaching, Wooldridge said.
“Projecting into the future, we realize our current facility is not going to match (rising membership). We have a desire in our association to meet high level coaching needs, and that is a Canada-wide thing.”
He said Nelson, with an indoor facility, could become a soccer hub and would attract provincial tournaments.
Climate change, with more frequent forest fires and smoke, is increasingly affecting the sport in Nelson, making an indoor space with clean air an increasing priority. Wooldridge added the association has to increasingly cancel sessions for kids and adults because of smoke and this year they have had more closure days than ever.
Wooldridge told council that the association is also losing elite players to larger centres for lack of a good indoor facility here.
“We have a lot of players looking to other communities to go to, namely Cranbrook, because they have a soccer-specific facility.”
The Cranbrook facility is a three-quarter size pitch, but Nelson has decided to go full-size. The land for the Cranbrook facility was donated by the City of Cranbrook.
Councillor Jesse Woodward asked about the longevity of the dome structure. Wooldridge said the skin of the structures are guaranteed for 25-to-30 years.
“These are affordable for an association like us,” he said. “We could not take on (the cost of) a fixed building.”
Woodward also asked how vulnerable the dome would be to ember showers, which he said we can expect sooner or later from a wildfire near Nelson.
Wooldridge said it would have to be a very large ember, because the dome has a “hard teflon-like surface that sheds everything.”
Councillor Rik Logtenberg asked about the proposed Lakeside location: what if it floods, and how would the structure affect the permeability of the surface, given that the the field provides drainage?
Wooldridge said the structure is essentially a temporary inflatable bubble and can be taken down if necessary, and the base can be permeable so water can flow through and around it. He said such structures are common on the prairies and in the far north because they can withstand harsh weather conditions.
Mayor John Dooley said the project is “definitely doable,” and suggested that the cost of the facility could be easily covered by taxpayers if it succeeded in a referendum put to voters in Nelson and several of the neighbouring RDCK electoral areas.
The question of whether and how to support the project will come up at a council meeting in the near future.