Soccer players are challenging a proposal to transform Yellowknife’s fieldhouse.
A $190,000 draft budget item – yet to be approved or discussed by councillors – calls for one of the fieldhouse’s two fields to be temporarily resurfaced between April and September.
City officials say community use of the facility stands at just four percent in those months (before the city’s own programming is included).
However, representatives of the Yellowknife Sundogs soccer team claim the city should improve the current playing surface, rather than replace it, to generate more users.
“The turf that we have in there now? Honestly, it’s old technology,” said coach Joe Acorn, who believes some players avoid the fieldhouse because of its current surface.
“That is not a healthy surface to play on,” said Acorn. “The proper field turf would get more adults out. I know a number of adults who have stopped playing adult soccer because of the beating their body takes from that floor.”
Andrew Fox, also representing the Sundogs, said city policies regarding fieldhouse usage also prevent more interest in the summer months.
Fox questioned whether installing a new surface on one field for half the year would generate more income for the city, or simply take income from other city facilities such as gyms.
Is the fieldhouse used?
Grant White, from city administration, explained more about the proposal.
“The project includes the installation of a Pulastic floor – the same brand used at the track level,” said White.
“Through the peak season – between October and March – we would have two indoor soccer fields. In the non-peak season we would have one soccer field and one multi-purpose surface.”
According to White, use of the fieldhouse by the community stands at 46 percent of capacity between October and March. That rises to 72 percent when city programs are included.
However, community use drops to just four percent from April to September, or 42 percent once the city’s programs are also factored in. The new surface would, according to administration, allow different activities and events to be held inside the fieldhouse.
White said some user groups other than soccer had been contacted, but Acorn and Fox expressed concern that no soccer organizations had been invited to comment.
Councillors are expected to look at the project as they delve into the draft budget during meetings this week.
Spray park ‘unwise’
Another resident, Velma Sterenberg, took time during Monday’s council meeting to highlight her concerns with other proposals in the budget.
Sterenberg took particular issue with plans – partly inspired by local students – to install a downtown spray park.
“Given the years of concern and publicity about global warming, I find it very discouraging that the city is willing to direct such a sum of money – and water – to this sort of facility,” said Sterenberg.
“It might be wiser to build pumping stations at various locales to protect the city from wildfires. There’s not going to be too many people enjoying a spray park if Yellowknife burns to the ground.”
The author of this report also serves as the volunteer president of NWT Soccer.