In just four months, the Kelowna United Football Club has managed to convince the city to partner on a dome-covered artificial turf soccer field to be built at the Mission sports fields.
The deal is still in the preliminary stages, with a memorandum of understanding drafted, but signed agreements to build and operate the building yet to come.
“You wave money and bring it to the party and it’s amazing what can happen,” said Mayor Walter Gray as he commended the club for taking the initiative to make something happen with a bold investment.
The club has a title sponsor backing the project and has agreed to pay to design, build and operate the new facility, in consultation with the city, provided the city offer up the land and a 15 year lease with a five-year first-come renewal offer to follow.
“My only disappointment is that it’s not a full-sized field, but I guess we have to walk before we run,” said Coun. Colin Basran, applauding the club for finding a way to keep young players on fields within the city limits when the concept was presented to city council Monday.
The field will be made of the latest in artificial turf and measure 45 metres by 73 metres, though a full-sized field would be 69-metres by 99 metres. It will be covered by a dome that is inflated during the off-season, six months open and six months covered, to offer seasonal play all winter.
Built of the newest generation of artificial turf, the field will not have sides like a regular indoor soccer pitch in order to encourage the outdoor style of play.
Adding the facility will offer exponentially more playing time than an ordinary outdoor field. Access to regular outdoor fields is limited to 550 hours of play, seasonally, in order to protect the grass, whereas the artificial field will be available for play as long as the lights are on.
All in all, it seemed like a bold addition to the city’s recreational offerings and there wasn’t a councillor unwilling to pursue the project.
“I actually want to thank Jim Gabriel and Don Backmeyer for moving so quickly on this,” said Coun. Mohini Singh, giving a nod to the city’s recreation staff.
Kelowna United Football Club is the elite division of the Central Okanagan Youth Soccer Association, which has 5000 children and youth enrolled.
More children play soccer than any other sport in Kelowna Surinder Gosal, a representative of the club, told city council.
The field will be open to the full club, and other recreation groups, when it is not needed for elite division play.
With council’s blessing, city staff will now be drafting a licence of occupation and operating agreement with the club to cover the terms of construction and operation. Construction could begin as early as next month.