Making a muddy mark. This rain is not expected to ease up anytime soon, meaning the grass soccer fields are saturated at Topaz Park, and off-limits for any type of soccer until they dry out. Except for the artificial turf field, according to John Bentley, general manager for Bays United Football Club.
“On a day like this, zero percent grass. Or 100% you can still play. So you can play on that all the time,” Bentley said.
But last week, council debated the future of the all-weather pitch, with councillor Ben Isitt opposing upgrades to the field. “Basically putting four million dollars worth of plastic into Topaz Park is the wrong direction to go,” Isitt said. After years of planning by the City of Victoria to overhaul the park in a multi-million dollar project that includes a skateboard park, bike park, a sudden reversal when it comes to the soccer pitch. “In light of the environmental harm, and the financial impact, I think the city should aspire to do natural turf fields,” Isitt said.
But news that the turf could be replaced with grass came out of nowhere for clubs representing thousands of players, including Bays’ three thousand members. “It came as a complete shock to us quite honestly. A few of us mobilized, and got all the information together, and we’ve presented a letter to council. We’ve emailed our members, and suggested they contact city council to make their views known,”Bentley said.
Vancouver Island Soccer League represents more than two thousand players. Executive director Vince Greco said the decision to review the field came as a shock. “I think initially I was frustrated. Upset, angry. But now I think I’ve turned back to more confused than anything else,” Greco said.
Last year, the school district shut down the field at Oak Bay High School after that field started shedding mounds of its plastic turf. That puts pressure on the region’s remaining fields. There are just not enough to meet demand, according to Greco. “For this area it’s very critical. It’s the only turf field in the City of Victoria,” Bentley said.
Bentley said its the only field in Topaz Park, and the city that can accommodate hundreds of players. “You can have 500 kids on that field. on a grass field you can only have 50. Because if you have too many, it tears it all up. And you can’t use it for two weeks,” Bentley said.