Ripped-up pitches and rained-out games may one day no longer be a problem for local soccer players.
Nelson Youth Soccer presented a preliminary plan Monday at a city council meeting to build an artificial turf field. The plan is still in its infancy, but chairman Kerry Dyck said the addition of the field would considerably lengthen the outdoor season.
“The turf concept allows us to operate times when we currently can’t now outdoors,” Dyck told the Star on Tuesday. “In terms of the shoulder seasons, March [and] April, when typically the outdoor fields are closed, even though the snow is melted and it would be possible to get out and play outside, the Lakeside fields are still kept closed for their protection because they’re still too wet to be played on.
“And likewise when we get into the fall, October [and] November, really the grass fields are not accessible for the most part, especially coupled with light issues as well.”
Soccer is arguably the most popular sport in Nelson. Over 900 kids are registered in NYS, and that doesn’t include participation in the Kootenay Whitecaps program or adult leagues.
Dyck said NYS teams aren’t usually lacking for field space, but that scheduling can get tight throughout the year. Wet conditions force games to be cancelled at Lakeside Park to protect the grass from being torn up. Playoffs and tournaments also make space allotment tricky, which Dyck said would be alleviated by an extra field.
He also thinks an artificial turf field would boost local player development, which Dyck said is currently at a competitive disadvantage.
“The Lower Mainland teams in particular, they play all winter,” he said. “So by the time we start running into them in tournaments in May, they’re at the end of their season and have had that opportunity to gel all year long. Our teams are typically a little bit rusty and we don’t often fare as well in those early season tournaments simply because we haven’t had as much time to prepare as well.”
Where the actual location of the field would go is still being debated.
Dyck said he’s had preliminary talks with Selkirk College about an undeveloped field behind Mary Hall at the Tenth Street Campus, but he added more conversations are needed before he could comment on the college’s interest. The land is actually owned by the city and leased to Selkirk.
NYS also considered the L.V. Rogers field, but an engineer advised them the space wouldn’t work.
An early estimate for the project, which would include a lighting array, puts the cost at around $1.5 million, although Dyck said that figure is far from finalized.
Dyck said a turf field has been talked about internally on and off for the last decade. The idea was put on the backburner after NYS acquired the Cedar Street indoor facility previously owned by Soccer Quest in 2014.
Although NYS plans on requesting financial assistance from the city, Dyck said the project’s viability doesn’t depend on municipal backing. The association is putting aside money for the turf field, and may be able to fund most of it themselves provided they get some financial support. He added they are considering pitching for a Columbia Basin Trust grant next year.
“It’s an incremental process,” he said. “Right now we’re trying to find support for the idea before going too far in asking people to cough up money. We would certainly be grateful and hoping to get some support from other stakeholders financially toward the project.”