North Shore soccer advocates turn up in numbers at council meeting to call for more artificial turf fields
The battle is on for more artificial turf fields in North Vancouver.
North Shore soccer advocates turned up in numbers to a special council meeting Monday where they called on councillors to build more artificial turf fields.
According to North Vancouver Football Club (NVFC), aspiring players are being turned away from development sessions due to a shortage of turf fields.
"There are so many children that are coming to play within our club," said Kaitlin Ewonus, a parent and coach with NVFC.
"We don't have the facilities now to do what we need to do to allow them to play when they should be playing. Turf is a priority and it should be a priority."
District council promised in 2018 to build an artificial turf field at Inter River Park with construction set to begin in 2023. But according to a draft budget presented to council during a meeting on Jan. 30, it was suggested that the project be added to the deferral list.
'It's an expensive time': mayor
The District of North Vancouver mayor says he understands the desire for more recreational facilities, but the state of the economy is making it more difficult to push forward with construction projects.
"These projects are definitely going up in cost and the tricky thing about right now is that it's an expensive time to borrow," said Mayor Mike Little.
"Interest rates are pretty high right now and that's a challenge. It means you're diverting more resources from other projects in order to be able to pay for borrowing which is frustrating for us."
According to the mayor, the Inter River project was initially projected to cost $6.2 million dollars in 2016. With construction cost escalations, he says that project is likely to cost more than $10 million dollars today.
According to the current draft budget, homeowners in the district already face a property tax increase of 4.5 percent — a number the mayor says will go up if council decides to include more funding for construction projects.
"We understand people want to move to [artifical turf fields], it's just very costly," said Little.
Concerns over gravel fields
While the soccer community speaks out about a shortage of available turf space, parents are also concerned about the state of gravel fields.
"We would strongly consider sometimes cancelling [practices] because of the kids obviously inhaling a lot of that dust," said Emilio Bottiglieri, head coach of the NVFC under-eight team.
"My son for instance has asthma so being in that environment isn't particularly good for him."
According to NVFC, roughly 1,100 players with the club currently play on gravel fields. The club president says the situation would be different if the district built more turf.
"With a field like Inter River, we could take 700 of those boys and put them onto turf and onto better facilities," said Stuart Ince. "These boys deserve better."
Budget deliberations to continue
The provincial government recently announced $10.25 million for the district as part of a Growing Communities Fund to help pay for recreational facilities, parks, and other local infrastructure.
Mayor Mike Little says he expects that money will be "heavily" applied to things like soccer fields.
District council will deliberate the budget on March 13, before finalizing an agreement in principle on the budget by March 27.