I’m not sure if many of you realize this but there are 1,100 youths and adults registered with Collingwood United Soccer Club playing soccer (or as we like to say in Europe football) in house leagues and travel teams around the Collingwood area. If you take the generally accepted population number of 20,000, that is over 5% of the population playing this sport in our town.
Fisher Field is a great facility for soccer, but after 10 years of operation there are still no permanent washrooms or changing facilities out there. What that means in practical terms is when we go out to play a game, you either have to arrive in your soccer clothes, or the other option rain or shine, change by the side of the field and many of the leagues are co-ed. Members of the board of directors of CUSC approached the town recently to see if or when this situation might be rectified. The answer was a resounding “Don’t hold your breath”. Apparently the last bit of money on recreation was spent on the skate park close to Mountainview. That $300k would have gone a long way to getting the much needed washrooms at Fisher but apparently the needs of the 50 or so skateboarders (every time I drive by that facility I am lucky if I see two or three kids in there) outweigh the needs of the many soccer players in town. My view is that when you have scant resources for recreation, you use the resources to benefit the most amount of people. I think a skate park is a luxury this town could ill afford, but that is yet another bone headed decision the previous council made.
Now before you all start accusing me of being a member of another whiny user group, I should explain a couple of things to you. CUSC is a net contributor to the towns coffers each year, to the tune of around $40,000 in user fees for rental of local soccer fields. Skate park $0 because it’s free. Also the town invested $4.5M on the swimming tent to basically accommodate the needs of around 100 kids that are part of the Clippers swim club. Hockey has more numbers; 500 involved comes to mind but the hockey tent over at Centennial Park cost a staggering $9M to accommodate half the amount of participants that soccer has playing. I also say that soccer is more of a poor kids sport, you don’t need hundreds of dollars worth of equipment to play, just soccer cleats and shin pads.
Boston Pizza sponsors a few soccer teams and does a great job promoting the sport locally, in fact a friend of mine that is involved with the club, recently told me that the owner had told him that during the first two weekends in June, when the club hosts its boys and girls rep soccer tournaments. Boston Pizza each weekend serves more main courses than the weekend of the Elvis festival. 1,500 youth soccer players come to town each of those weekends, let’s say conservatively each child comes with two family members, that is 4,500 people coming to town booking hotel rooms, eating in restaurants and generally spending money around town. When they arrive at the premier facility for soccer in our town, they see a place with no permanent structures, just a couple of garden sheds and a few “Porta-cans”. The priorities in this town seem completely out of whack with the realities.
One last point, for some reason our town has always punched above its weight in the success of most of its soccer teams. The Premier team is the highest level of soccer in our town, they play Ontario Soccer League Central Region. This team no matter what its results, can never progress to a higher level of soccer now because of the lack of facilities out at Fisher Field.
Please do me a favour, especially the members of town council that read this blog. Compare the net benefits that soccer brings to the table mentioned above, to the benefits a skate park brings. The next dollars that come available for recreation in our town, should be invested in proper facilities out at Fisher Field.