The all-weather artificial turf field at Fred Milne Park is within weeks of becoming a reality and getting to this point has been an exercise in community spirit and support.
The project has been made possible by the generosity of businesses and individuals in Sooke, who have made the installation of one of the biggest facilities of its kind on the lower Island, said Laura Lockhart, president of Sooke Soccer Club.
But, like any project, the installation of this state of the art facility was not without its challenges.
“We always wondered about the northwest corner of the site. It was always prone to flooding. Even with only a little bit of rain, it’s always been a struggle to keep that part of the field playable. It wasn’t until we started excavation for the installation of the new field that we discovered that there was an underground spring running through that part of the grounds. No wonder it flooded,” said Lockhart.
Paul Clarkston, of Clarkston Construction, who has taken a lead role in the field’s construction, was surprised to find the pool of water at that location as soon as digging began.
“We were in one of the driest summers on record, but when we dug down we got to this big, wet, sloshy bunch of ground. It certainly came as a surprise … there was a crazy amount of water there,” said Clarkston.
He explained that the problem has now been rectified through the installation of extra on-field and perimeter drainage that diverts the water into the site’s drainage system.
“Things like that come up and have the potential of raising costs, but Paul and his crew handled it. They have just been tremendous,” said Lockhart.
“We are actually under budget thanks to the kind donations of people like the heavy machinery owners and operators. We had thousands of yards of gravel donated and even support for fundraisers like our bottle drive made a big difference. The wall of fame at our clubhouse alone resulted in $40,000. And, of course, without the $1 million we received from the [Capital Regional District] and the District of Sooke through the gas tax, and the support of the Sooke Community Association, none of this would have been possible,” she added.
While the field may look nearly completed, there are some final touches still needed and the actual grand opening won’t occur until early November.
“Our players are very excited. We had our team pictures taken inside this year in front of a green screen. Teams wanted those pictures to have the new field set as the background to their pictures, and I can’t blame them. It’s a beautiful facility,” said Lockhart.
Once it’s operational, Lockhart is certain the field will serve to draw some soccer players who had moved to play outside the community back to Sooke.
“We had a hard time retaining players because we had so many games cancelled due to wet field conditions. I guess having a river running under part of the field didn’t help,” said Lockhart.
The soccer club has already been approached by teams from other parts of Greater Victoria who may be interested in renting the facility, and local baseball and football teams will also be pleased to know that they will have access to the state of the art, fully lighted artificial turf field.
And, of course, all of those athletes will be pleased to learn that the northwest corner of the site is no longer a sloshy mess.