Checking out the all-weather field

Out on a Limb with Alistair Taylor

Hey, I’m probably the biggest supporter of recreation infrastructure there is.

I wouldn’t say I subscribe to the rationale that “we need recreation facilities to keep our kids safe and off the street.” That argument gets thrown around as a justification for every recreational facility referendum or proposal. I think there’s some truth to it but there are other reasons for recreation facilities. And that one’s a bit sketchy because the kids getting in trouble “on the street” are not wayward soccer players who would otherwise be playing a game of footie but instead have decided to B&E a restaurant because they’ve got nothing else to do and nowhere to play soccer.

New facilities are valid because they provide recreational opportunities for youth and adults and provide alternatives to unhealthy lifestyles. And they’re fun!

The newest facility now open is the all-weather, artificial-turf field at Robron Park (see page 19). It opened last week after some controversy and misunderstanding about its funding. People felt a 2008 referendum that included the all-weather field on its ballot among other things had been defeated. But it wasn’t the field that people were mostly voting against, it was a much more expensive new arena that was included on the ballot.

As local lawyer and tennis aficionado Sid Shook said in a letter to mayor and council, “voters were never given the option of voting for or against the field as a stand alone item. The field approval was tied to a very expensive hockey arena/event center proposal. A voter could not vote yes for the field without voting yes for the hockey rink/event center. A no vote for the hockey arena/event center was a no vote for the field.”

The artificial turf field actually had a great deal of support.

But once the project was approved in a separate process, the anti-turf faction came out of the…grass? These people opposed artificial turf itself because it “causes cancer” and “injury” and what have you. Good thing the artificial turf didn’t go in beside a cell phone tower like the one that was proposed for Willow Point Park! Migosh, it would have been environmental hazard-central!

But thankfully, the project got done because it is a really useful facility that Campbell River doesn’t have but other Island communities do.

So, once I got the word that it was open, I decided I should go check it out. My daughter and I grabbed a soccer ball on Saturday and went to the field.

There was a group of young men already on one part of the field (good to see it being used and the young men “off the street”) and we decided to make use of another part while the rest of it was covered in crusty leftover snow and ice.

I realized after a while that I must never have played on a decent grass field because it was obvious how flat and smooth that artificial turf was. It was beautiful. Grass was never so even. Of course, I’ve never played soccer at a particularly high level so I couldn’t compare it to playing on, say, Wembley Stadium. Or even Swangard Stadium (in Burnaby). The turf field was a bit hard but it was really nice to play on.

But I have to say, there was a touch of irony surrounding this story. I was planning to take some pictures of Riptide soccer action scheduled for the all-weather field on Sunday. I was wondering what they’d do about the snow and ice on about a third of the field.

I arrived at game time to find the field deserted and still sporting snow and ice. I went back to the office to double check I had the time right. The Vancouver  Island Premier League website indicated the game had been cancelled…due to weather!  Isn’t it an all-weather field?

To be fair,  it was the league that cancelled, not the City Parks and Rec Department.

But still, it didn’t look good.