March 26, 2015 7:00 am
Updated: March 26, 2015 8:04 am

Better Winnipeg: Dakota Collegiate plans for new athletic field

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WINNIPEG — Teams often talk about the home field advantage. It comes with the sound of roaring fans pumping up athletes during a game.

But students at Dakota Collegiate have been missing out on the benefits of playing at home for years.

Now, an ambitious plan is taking shape to bring all the school teams back home to play on a new, state-of-the-art field.

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“Our school has been around for 51 years and the school grounds have remained unchanged for 51 years. We decided to upgrade our facilities,” says Rob Mager, vice-principal at the school and part of the Alumni Field Planning Committee.

“It’s more than just a field. It’ll be a multi-sport facility whether it’s soccer, football, ultimate, field hockey. Everyone will be using the field.”

Plans for the underutilized space are long overdue, said Dean Favoni, who has taught at the school since 1991 and is also part of the planning committee.

“The school has a long history of success in athletics and I think it’s time that our field-sport teams have a place where they can practice and play. Where family, friends and classmates can step outside the building and watch them play. Similar to what our court sports have,” says Favoni.

Right now the field teams are forced to travel to other venues off school grounds for their home games.

It creates a challenge when it comes to co-ordinating transportation, and leads to far fewer fans turning out to watch and cheer on the teams.

“We all have to find our own rides there, which is kind of a struggle,” Dakota Collegiate student Emma Smith said about her soccer team.  “Always going to other fields, fans can’t come out, it’s harder for parents. It’s harder if friends want to see you play. Plus it’s just having that home atmosphere. We never get to experience that.”

The high school’s outdoor green space is in such poor shape, Macho Bockru and the rest of his football team called the University of Manitoba Bison practice field home all season. “We have to take a team school bus and pack the whole team in there.”

The huge open space between the high school and the Bishop Grandin Greenway is used for practice by some of the teams, but the uneven surface, ruts and pieces of concrete debris coming to the surface are taking a toll. Athletes are scrambling over use of the better patches of land and spending unreasonable amounts of time clearing away the rocks.

The new field design would offer more space and way more features, including a rubberized track, 100 metre sprint lanes, an outdoor basketball court, a batting cage and cricket pitch.

The entire school yard would be opened up and metal fence taken down, connecting the track to the greenway.

“Bishop Grandin Greenway is a cycling path, running path, walking path. We’re going to encourage people to walk up, roll up and bike up to watch a game, watch a practice, use the track,” Favoni said.

“We would have it for our kids and for community people. We just think it’s a great opportunity for the greater part of south St. Vital to have access to a facility like this.”

Bringing the sports teams onto a brand new outdoor field is exciting, but it comes at a cost. The school and its alumni are chipping away at raising $5 million in funding.

“We’re a public high school. There’s only so much money to go around so we’re looking for private donations to build something like this,” says Mager. “We look at this no different than an small elementary school fundraising for a new slide on the playground. This is our playground at Dakota Collegiate.”

The Dakota Collegiate Alumni Field campaign started last year. The hope is to have funding in place for the project within the next two to three years.

On April 10 the fundraising committee will host a gala dinner featuring sports broadcaster Jay Onrait and Olympian Jon Montgomery. Find more information at dcigala.ca.

Better Winnipeg is a weekly feature that focuses on people and events that make Winnipeg better. If you have suggestions for stories, send them to betterwinnipeg@globalnews.ca.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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