Under normal circumstances Greater Victoria’s weather allows soccer, field lacrosse and field hockey to be played by adults and youth throughout the winter.
The availability of all-weather fields, however, is a key part of that. That’s a big reason why the Vancouver Island Soccer League (VISL) is partnering with the Greater Victoria School District and Indigenous and other sports groups to create a centralized, two-field, $3.5-million complex at Spectrum Community School in Saanich.
“This is something we’ve been working on for 10 years, if not longer,” says Vince Greco, VISL executive director. Since turf became viable as a way of reducing game cancellations, he adds, several member clubs in Greater Victoria have constructed all-weather fields.
The high cost of land has been a roadblock to creating a VISL home field to date, Greco says, which makes the partnerships involved crucial.
The district is providing the land, but the other partners, each of which would share a piece of this recreational home, include Songhees Nation, the Native Indian Football Association and the T-Bird Soccer Group, while connections to the Canadian national para-soccer team and Kidsport Victoria have also been made for future use.
Not only does Spectrum have a large, mostly unused piece of land, VISL’s goals dovetail with those of the school. The side-by-side fields – part of a greater vision for the school that also includes an ice rink for its hockey academy – would be used for soccer, field lacrosse, PE classes and other recreational programs.
“We’re always trying to do things for the kids in the community,” says athletic director Dominic Butcher, pointing specifically to the Indigenous partnerships. “With our school district’s huge emphasis on truth and reconciliation … this project directly addresses that.”
Butcher, a longtime VISL goalkeeper himself, echoes Greco’s sentiment that the project has the potential to provide benefit to a broad cross-section of the community.
“I think [it’s in] our very name, we want to be that colour in the community, connecting people and being that community builder, with the people we help build and the students we produce,” Butcher says. “There’s lots of potential for partnerships and many community sports groups are crying out for turf time.”
The proponents aim to get $2.25 million in grant money, leaving the league to raise roughly $1.25 million. Any donations received by the end of 2020 will enhance the group’s current funding applications, Greco says.
Besides the fields, the goal is to have a “learning centre” that would house change rooms, meeting and spectator spaces and potentially a concession.
More information at vislturf.ca.