TSN SportsCentre is broadcasting live from Victoria Park in support of efforts to create a dedicated football field in Charlottetown. Public events with free food and children’s activities begin at 5 p.m., a cheque presentation to the football organization at 6 p.m. and TSN begins the live broadcast at 7 p.m.
Less than a decade ago, Charlottetown’s Birchwood Field was literally a dump.
Located near the 1911 jail on Longworth Avenue, the land was home to garbage and scrap parts for years, but city officials began working to transform the property about five years ago.
Terry Allen, general manager of the P.E.I. Privateers football club, was one of the people who noticed what was happening.
“Nobody had really claimed the field,” he said. “Birchwood (Intermediate School) was starting to play some of their games on it, but nobody was using it at other times. So we asked if we could start focusing our football program there, and the city was good enough to go along with that.”
Birchwood Field is receiving $25,000 as one of 10 finalists in this year’s TSN’s Kraft Celebration Tour. The tour arrives in Charlottetown today with activities planned for Victoria Park between 5 and 8 p.m.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE ABOUT THE TSN BROADCAST AND KRAFT CELEBRATION TOUR
The Privateers started competing in the Maritime Football League’s senior division in 2004. However, changes were needed to ensure long-term success.
“We came to the bright assumption that there just weren’t enough football players coming up through the system,” Allen said. “That’s when we decided to expand the club.”
The club now includes teams in the bantam (age 14 and under) and varsity (age 18 and under) divisions of the P.E.I. Tackle Football League, as well as flag football teams in the under-10 and -12 divisions.
There is also a mentorship component built into the program.
“The main thing we thought when we started this was that we really wanted the senior players to contribute to the minor programs,” Allen said. “Almost all of our coaches are not parents. They are players that play for the different teams.”
One of the many players to benefit from this system is Colin Trewin.
“Having many of our assistant coaches just recently finish their varsity football career, we are given the chance to learn from veterans of our own league and discover what translates well into the P.E.I. football league,” said the quarterback, who is entering his fifth season with the Privateers this fall. “These coaches are very easy to relate to and are great leaders for the younger players to follow.”
The Colonel Gray High School student said the club has helped him grow on and off the field.
“I entered the program a few years back with a bad attitude and was immature,” he said. “Within two years, I had turned my demeanour around to become a captain and star player on the team. This team gave me the opportunity to become a leader and find an area to excel, and gave me the motivation to succeed.”
Despite having five teams, the Privateers don’t have a field to call their permanent home.
The teams practise at Longworth Field, but the varsity and senior teams play their home games at the Terry Fox Sports Complex in Cornwall.
“We still love the field, and we would love to see it improve to become the home of our team with all the necessities to accommodate both teams and to be a proud location to play at,” Trewin said.
Allen said the $25,000 would go primarily toward field maintenance, including pads for the goal posts.
It is also eligible for an additional $75,000 through the online voting component of the contest that took place on July 21 and 22. The grand prize winner will be announced on Aug. 25.
“Our main goal has always been to establish a football culture on the Island similar to what many other young people are exposed to in the rest of Canada,” Trewin said. “Our home field currently has the bare essentials, without even a scoreboard.
“If our club is the winner of this prize, we will be able to give our often-homeless football club a location to establish a permanent future for football in the provincial capital, and to assure that young Islanders are given the opportunities we have been given for years to come.”