Curt Smith of the WCAGFC Rowdies, right, during a men’s league division 3 game against the PoCo Rangers at the Westview turf field on Sunday.                                Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS

Curt Smith of the WCAGFC Rowdies, right, during a men’s league division 3 game against the PoCo Rangers at the Westview turf field on Sunday. Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS

Planning four new artificial turf fields in Maple Ridge

Soccer welcomes upgrades after winter of cancelled games

Four new artificial turf fields in Maple Ridge will give sports groups much more playing time, provided city hall and the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District can reach an agreement.

School board chair Mike Murray said staff from both organizations have yet to meet and iron out details. Once they do, the school board will vote on a plan that would see two new artificial turf fields created over grass fields at Thomas Haney secondary, and another covering the all-weather field at Eric Langton elementary.

Another artificial turf field is being created at Merkley Park, near Maple Ridge secondary, on 122nd Avenue, with construction for that project going to tender soon.

“We have some great arrangements with the city at three sites now, and it’s working out really well,” said Murray, noting there are already artificial turf fields situated at Samuel Robertson, Pitt Meadows and Westview secondary schools.

“They enhance the sites an awful lot,” he added.

Murray headed the city’s recreation department, as recreation director and in other capacities, from 1977 until his retirement in 2010.So he understands management needs to limit a grass field’s use, “otherwise it gets trashed.”

He said an artificial turf field allows for up to seven times more use compared with grass, which justifies the investment.

That additional use is what makes these projects so important to the West Coast Auto Group FC, said the soccer association president Jason Salchert.

“This is really good. Synthetic fields give all user groups more field time,” he said. “We could get so many more kids out there.”

The WCAGFC is the largest user group in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, with more than 3,000 soccer players, from children to adults using fields in both spring and fall.

“It will be a net benefit to everybody – all user groups,” said Salchert.

Other field users include field lacrosse, rugby, softball, slo-pitch and football.

The past fall and winter season was a scheduling nightmare for soccer in the Lower Mainland, as snow and relentless rain kept grass fields closed. Generally, games missed are rescheduled, but this season so much time was lost that only missed games with playoff or cup ramifications were played.

“We lost a significant portion of the season,” said Salchert. “It was definitely the worst [weather] I’ve seen.”

The soccer association had pitched a new hub of artificial turf fields in Albion. Failing that, Salchert appreciates the plan put forward by council.

“It is a significant infrastructure upgrade,” he said. “The only thing that would be better is if they had new fields – in addition to the existing ones – but I’m not greedy.”

The city plan, which would cost an estimated $10 million, will also see construction of a concession building at Thomas Haney, and two grass fields will remain there, so it will be a tournament centre.

Salchert said the soccer association has proposed other playing fields in the city be upgraded, such as those at Hammond and Riverside schools, to either improved grass surfaces or artificial turf.

The city will discuss its current plans with sports groups.