Artificial turf field plan moves forward

A $300,000 funding allocation integral to to build an artificial turf Field at Fred Milne Park was approved by Sooke council.

A $300,000 funding allocation integral to SEAPARC’s plan to build an artificial turf Field at Fred Milne Park was approved Monday by Sooke council.

“It’s something we’ve needed for a longtime. We needed to step in and help move recreation services in our community,” said Mayor Maja Tait.

Sooke Soccer Club and Sooke Community Association members made an impassioned plea for funding at a standing room-only council meeting, which included youth soccer players, coaches and parents.

Fred Milne Park fields drain poorly, leaving them unplayable after heavy rainfall.

The $1.7-million field would allow more than 1,000 soccer and baseball players to use the field year-round.

The district of Sooke will use $300,000 from its gas tax reserve fund spread over five years. The money is on top of the $400,000 pledged earlier from the Sunriver Estate allocation fund.

Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks has also pledged $300,000 from the Capital Regional District gas tax fund, another $200,000 comes from in-kind business donations and the Sooke Soccer Club.

All that money still leaves more than $800,000 left to be raised through government grants, gaming licenses or local fundraising.

Currently, maintenance on the grass field costs about $20,000 season with volunteers doing most of the work.

And while rain stop games on grass fields, it also forces athletes indoors.

Sooke Soccer Club spends $1,000 a week for a four spot at the Westhills field and more than $2,500 a year for gym rentals in the wet season.

On a rainy weekend 10 games can be cancelled and 340 children in the region can’t play soccer, pointed out Coun. Bev Berger, adding half those children live in Sooke.

“We can guarantee practice time and games with the [artificial] turf field,” said Sooke Soccer Club vice-president Laura Lockhart.

“We want to get this going sooner rather than later.”

Fred Milne Park Field No. 3, which has the largest surface area, measuring 8,679 square metres, is the most likely spot for the artificial turf field.

“We’re looking at improving our recreation services for our community,” said Tait, adding that Sooke continues to grow with more demands on services. “We’re at least catching up.”