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Delayed opening of Edmonton sports fields upsets soccer group

WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton's city-run sports fields are tentatively scheduled to open on May 12, and one local soccer group says that's simply too late. Sarah Kraus has the details.

The tentative date to open Edmonton’s city-run sports fields is currently May 12 – later than usual, thanks to a wet spring. But one Edmonton soccer league wants their kids on the fields sooner.

The Edmonton Minor Soccer Association represents 22,000 young soccer players and it is upset with the city’s scheduling.

“To me, it’s a rash decision without thinking about the consequences,” said CEO Mario Charpentier.

He said if the fields don’t open soon, EMSA will lose a quarter of its season and be forced to cancel games.

“Two weeks will be 3,200 games, and in the next six weeks – no way we can catch up,” he said.

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READ MORE: Wet, cold weather delays spring opening for Edmonton sports fields

St. Albert has tentatively scheduled their opening date for May 3, while Sherwood Park has most fields opening May 8.

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“I don’t think there was less snow and rain there than here, they’re not that far,” Charpentier said.

He also pointed to the dry-looking fields at Roper Park as an example of grass that is already good to play on.

“If we use 500 fields, there may be 20, 30, 40 that are with water or snow for whatever reason – but not 500 of them,” he argued.

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This week, EMSA sent a letter to its parents, urging them to contact city councillors and their MLAs and let them know they want their kids to start playing.

Coun. Bryan Anderson said city staff are well aware of the demand for the fields, but they need to balance it with the field conditions.

“I’ve actually seen firsthand what early attempts to get onto grass before it is dried out, before it has fully thawed out,” Anderson said. “You skid off 15 inches of grass, simply burn it and turn it into mud.”

That costs taxpayers money when the city has to re-seed and repair damaged fields.

“If we are on today, we’re abusing them. If we wait a little while we’re going to be able to use them well into the fall,” he said.

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Marcus Boutilier works for the city in the area of sports fields.

“Mother Nature does throw us different curve balls and last year we were able to open the fields early, as a matter of fact,” he explained. “Unfortunately with this year, the way the weather’s gone and with the snow we just had even a week ago, the fields were never dry.”

READ MORE: Edmontonians bemoan the winter that will never end

Boutilier said crews are out evaluating the fields daily.

“Certainly with the weather improving there may be a potential for us to be able to open early. The reason for the May 12 date was to give teams and leagues the ability to reschedule their seasons,” he said.

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The Edmonton Soccer Association sympathizes with the city.

“The fields have been very wet, you want them as dry as possible,” said CEO Adrian Newman. “You do damage early, it’s not going to recover. You do permanent damage for the season if you do play too early.”

Newman said even the ESA turf fields are currently closed and grass ones are still a long ways from opening.

“Our fields, which we operate at Henry Singer Park, are never open until the May long weekend. We have to play right through until September and we have to make sure they’ll last the whole season.”

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