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‘Our existing facilities are at capacity’: Edmonton councillor pushes for new indoor soccer centre

Click to play video: 'Edmonton takes first steps to build new indoor soccer facility'
Edmonton takes first steps to build new indoor soccer facility
WATCH ABOVE: Getting time at an Edmonton indoor soccer centre is next to impossible. Fields are at 94 per cent capacity during the winter. But as Quinn Ohler reports, the city is taking the first steps to open a new indoor facility – Aug 15, 2016

As Edmonton’s population continues to increase, particularly when it comes to young families, one city councillor hopes to move forward with plans to build a new indoor soccer facility.

“I think it’s important that we try to accommodate as many sports as we can but ultimately this was about soccer use and participation in soccer by young people, which is the fastest-growing sport in the city,” Ward 10 city councillor Michael Walters said Monday.

There are two types of indoor soccer facilities in the city: boarded and non-boarded. While these facilities are primarily used for soccer, they are also used for other sports like ball hockey, inline hockey and lacrosse.

Edmonton has three city-owned indoor soccer centres that accommodate boarded soccer. Each facility has four fields for a total of 12 fields. Right now, all three facilities are at capacity during prime time in the winter.

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Each year, the 12 fields are used as follows:

  • 23,700 hours utilized
  • 20,000 scheduled games
  • 853,200 player visits for games
  • 66,000 player visits for practices
  • 138,000 spectators per year
  • over $550,000 revenue collected annually at $4/day or $29/season pass
  • minors and seniors are not included as they are not charged admission

“Our city continues to grow and add people – a younger population, families – and so it’s about getting ready for the day when we need that next facility, which is going to creep up on us before we know it,” Walters said.

Mike Thome is the executive director of the Edmonton and District Soccer Association. The adult soccer league has about 11,000 players enrolled from the greater Edmonton area.

With upwards of 570 teams, Thome said finding time on the pitch can be a challenge.

“It’s been a great challenge. Whenever your program is growing, you’re excited about that but the challenge with that comes from facilities,” he said.

“I think we’re having kickoff times as late as 10:45 p.m. during the week. That’s when you’re starting. You’re finishing at 11:45 p.m. and by the time you get out of the building it’s after midnight. And then people have to get up and go to work the next day and that’s tough.”

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Thome said he is excited by the notion Edmonton could see a new indoor soccer facility. He said in an ideal world, he would like to see games start no later than 10 p.m.

“Having more courts is obviously going to improve that situation dramatically. I think another fourplex like we’ve got now should put us in good stead for quite a while.”

Soccer is the number one minor sport activity in Edmonton. Census data shows the population under the age of nine grew by 13 per cent from 2009 to 2014, which may lead to continued growth in registrations.

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In order to keep up with the growing demand, adjustments have been made to soccer scheduling, which includes earlier start times for younger players and later finish times for adult games.

Walters said planning for a new facility now just “makes good sense.”

“Part of a healthy city is having kids that have access, and families that have access to recreation. Soccer is a very popular game, it’s an affordable game. Indoor soccer, in club soccer, comes with some more expense… but essentially the health outcomes, the social development, the return on investment from recreation and sports is well documented,” he said.

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Ball Hockey Edmonton currently has a wait-list of people wanting to join the winter league, but the organization isn’t able to accommodate the growth with its current time allocated at the facilities.

When it comes to non-boarded facilities, Edmonton has one city-owned centre. The facility is half the size of a regulation soccer field so usage is limited to training.

The City of Edmonton has given $15,000 to the Edmonton Soccer Association to look at possible new sites and to develop plans around those new sites.

Walters hopes to have the ball rolling on a business plan for a new facility right away, with a solid plan in place within the year.

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