Soccer parents asked to lobby politicians over delayed season start

Edmonton sports fields to open Monday, 4 days earlier than teams feared

The Edmonton Minor Soccer Association is crying foul over the city's decision to delay the opening of outdoor fields.

In an email, the association asks members to lobby the government over the issue.

"We now turn to you, our members, and strongly encourage you to bring this situation to the attention of your council person, alderman, MLA or any other official that can help the City of Edmonton re-analyze the facts, the weather forecast and revise their decision to postpone outdoor soccer season start," the association says in a message to its members.

The email points out that fields in St. Albert are set to open on May 3, and in Sherwood Park on May 8.

Edmonton's fields were originally slated to open Friday, and the soccer season was set to kick off May 1.

But the city has decided on May 12 will be the opening date because of wet conditions.

"The decision to pick that date was just to ensure enough consecutive days of warm dry weather so that the fields can dry out enough for our crews and equipment to do the maintenance required to get them ready for safe play," said Kristen Wagner, a spokesperson for the city's parks and road services.

In a previous interview with CBC, EMSA said the decision to delay the opening will cut  two weeks from the eight-week schedule.

"If we get delayed one week, we can survive," said EMSA president Mario Charpentier. "But if not, we will be in big trouble."

EMSA coordinates games for 1,500 teams in Edmonton. Missing 25 per cent of the season would mean canceling or rescheduling more than 3,000 games.

Wagner said she understands the disappointment but opening the fields too soon could cause damage.

"Definitely, that's the main reason we like to keep them closed," she said.

"There's a good chance of ruts developing or mud happening. It damages the turf and if the turf is damaged that leads to more extensive repairs being required later on.

"So the best operation is to just kind of wait a little longer at the beginning of the season and have better playing surfaces the rest of the year."

That means the May 12 date isn't expected to change, despite the lobbying campaign.

"Just given the forecast and the conditions right now, May 12 is the most reasonable and likely date," Wagner said. "But we are continually monitoring situations and if it's possible to open earlier, then we will."

Wagner said the city is working with leagues on a case-by-case basis to try to reschedule games or credit the cost of field rentals to their accounts. The city is also looking at using its artificial turf or indoor fields as a substitute.