Kelowna’s soccer community will get a big boost this fall with the construction of a second all-season facility.
A $1.2 million dollar project, the covered turf field will be built on the grounds of Rutland Senior Secondary, with completion slated for October.
The provincial government chipped in with a $350,000 grant last week to help construct the 65 by 45 metre field, topped by a 13.5 metre-high bubble cover.
It will be about 25 per cent larger than the existing Valley First Soccer Centre, built by Kelowna United FC on the Mission sports grounds in 2013.
With demand for field time on a steady rise for youth soccer, United past president Mark Krehel said the new facility will be a welcome addition to Kelowna’s sports landscape.
“It’s a big step forward for soccer in the community and region,” said Krehel. “We’re just the fourth youth soccer club in North America to have two facilities like this, so we feel very good about that and the future for our young players here.”
Kelowna United collaborated on the project with the Central Okanagan School District which will also see considerable benefits from the covered field.
Because of the location of the facility, students at RSS will get most of the time allotted to schools, but other schools in the district will also have an opportunity to train indoors.
Larry Paul, the secretary-treasurer for the school district, said the facility will be a boon for all parties involved.
“The school district had the land and Kelowna United had the capital, so it worked out very well,” said Paul. “It was matter of making sure both parties got a win-win out of this.
“The big advantage is that our kids can be on the field year-round in as realistic of an environment as possible, and in turn I think that will enhance the youth in our community.”
For Kelowna United, the construction of the new field couldn’t come at a better time as the club continues to experience rapid growth. In the last five years, the club has swelled from 350 to almost 600 players.
The new facility offers more training opportunities for youth soccer players during the winter months, further helping to close the gap on Lower Mainland programs.
United technical director Dante Zanatta said the much-needed indoor facility will further nurture the development of the sport and the opportunities afforded to young talent throughout the Okanagan.
“We had basically run out of space, so now more kids will be getting more touches on the ball and that can only help with the development of the game,” said Zanatta.
“I think if you look at the growth and success of both United and TOFC (Thompson Okanagan FC), the results are filtering throughout the region. You have the soccer academies now at RSS, OKM and Dr. Knox. The game continues to grow and this (field) will be an important part of that growth.”
Among other groups expected to use the new field are UBC Okanagan’s varsity soccer and rugby programs, the Junior Heat soccer teams, Okanagan College baseball and flag football.
The new covered field is being constructed by the Farley Group from Guelph, Ont., the same company that built the Valley First Centre in 2013. Construction is expected to begin in June or July.