Friday, June 18, 2010

A year of artificial turf

From a post I made on the Bowen Phorum last week about the artificial turf field.  This was made before Soccerfest (and before our coed team, The All Blacks, won the title!):

Having been a soccer player for the past year, I can say that there has been tremendous community built around what is happening at the field. It is intergenerational, active, fun and very popular. Literally hundreds of people have played on the field this year. There are all kinds of opportunities for people to come and play at every level from five years old and up, including a coed adult league that has been a blast, a women's program cooached by Canada's National Team Manager, a men's night on Tuesdays and some good sides for teenagers. There is a whole variety of competitive levels from rank beginner to pretty darn good. There are adult/kids pick up games on the weekend, and the field is open and available for people to play on when there are no scheduled events going on. For free.

The coed league cup final is on Friday evening, so perhaps folks could come out to watch that and see some of the community that has sprung up around the league.. Maybe one day it'll take on the character of the men's fast pitch league, which I love to watch, even though I don't play in it.

I think all of this activity could not have happened if we had not had the AT field. I was pretty mixed on the decision to use artificial turf, but when it went ahead, I chose to just roll with it. I have to admit, that plastic grass wasn't my idea of Bowen at first. When the infill material was discussed I was relieved to see what the final decision was (you can literally eat the infill material now - it's cork and coconut husks). But as long as we have this facility, I figured, let's use it/ Even though I travel a lot, almost every day I am here, I get some time at the field with my son, who is developing quite a taste for playing goal. We play on the field and if there are other kids and adults there, almost always a game gets started. It is a great surface to play on, and you'll forgive me if I tell you that it is of such a high quality that I often forget I'm not playing on grass.

I think we couldn't have done this on grass for a number of reasons. First of all, it's the sustained activity that builds community, not a couple of shoulder seasons when soccer is possible. Soccer is very hard on grass fields. Last summer while we were waiting for the new field to be built, we played our league games in Crippen Park. By the third week or so with only two games a week, the field was a mess. One or two good rains turned it to mud. You simply can't play that much on grass. In my mind a similar outlay on a grass field would have been a waste of money as we would have had to treat it too preciously for it to be of use.

I think the grass field at BICS, even with a massive investment to improve it would still be a problem because of the site and the amount of sun it gets and the kind of drainage that happens. The BICS field is like a bowl, and it is always under water after a rain, especially the south end. Playing on that field in the past has created some nasty injuries - hamstring pulls and sprained ankles, just from the lumpy grass.. One thing you have to do to manage a grass field is keep people off it for substantial periods of time while it reseeds and recovers. Not so with the AT field. It's open all the time and free for people to use. Rain or shine, snow or sun.

So my opinion is that we have built some really lovely community around what is happening with soccer on the island. Just like the community that has built up around the baseball field, and the community that has built up around the Gallery and the open mic coffee houses and kitchen junkets, and the community that will build around the CHAC. It might not be the community YOU choose to be a part of, but it's there.

And as for me, instead of being sad about the turf field, I just dove into using it, and I haven't regretted that decision at all. So this is my report of what it's like from inside the story. if you want to experience it for your self come on out and play with us. Soccerfest is coming up this weekend and there is almost always someone down there kicking a ball around that will play with you.

Now whether the development at the Cape will create community or not...that is another question.