Closure of UPEI turf field leaves teams, leagues scrambling

Affected groups include the P.E.I. Soccer Association, which had to cancel its bid to host the under-16 national soccer championships

Charles Reid creid@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 26, 2016

Members of the P.E.I. Celts Gaelic Athletic Association football team practice recently at the UPEI turf field in Charlottetown.

©Jason Malloy/The Guardian

The P.E.I. Celts Gaelic Athletic Association's gaelic football game and hurling demonstration is still on after UPEI closed its turf field on Monday.

All the PEIGAA had to do was move across the yard to MacAdam Field at UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place.

Shane O'Neill, PEIGAA chairman, learned the news Sunday. He secured the grass pitch the next day with several phone calls and help from the university after the turf field closure threatened to derail this Sunday's showcase of the popular Irish sports.

"Up until 5 p.m. Monday, it affected us massively, (but) there was no way it was being cancelled. Worst case scenario is we'd go to Montague. It's a good chance to use a grass field. UPEI has been fair to us and worked it out," said O'Neill. "(The turf field) definitely needs replacing. The lifetime of artificial turf is about seven years; this is 10 years old. The grass cushioning is basically gone. You're playing on rubber."

Game time is still noon for the event, which features the P.E.I Celts hosting the Halifax Gaels, the Eastern Canadian champion, in senior men's gaelic football action.

After that is demonstration of hurling, in which players often running at full speed score by hitting a baseball-sized ball with a stick into a netted, rugby-like net.

O'Neill said spectators are farther from the action on the grass field and, with its longer end zones compared to the turf pitch, makes things a bit safer to watch.

"It's a huge advantage in hurling. In fact, it's better."

UPEI closed its artificial turf field after an engineering firm, hired to assess the field, recommended it be replaced.

Jackie Podger, UPEI vice-president of administration and finance, said in another media report the field doesn't meet current performance standards and has passed its usable life. She also said UPEI is working with local users to find alternate venues.

Affected groups include the P.E.I. Soccer Association, which had to cancel its bid to host the under-16 national soccer championships because of the field, most UPEI field sports, bantam and varsity minor football, and the Holland College football club.

UPEI had no timeline on when the turf would be replaced. The City of Charlottetown denied the university’s request for help funding the roughly $900,000 fix.

For John Diamond, PEISA president, the closure isn't a huge concern and the most affected will likely be the premier men's league.

"The association gave notice to leagues and clubs that UPEI turf was not an option for the summer season. I do not know of any major problems. Most league games were on grass. Premier men's games are primarily on turf as these fields have lights, but Terry Fox turf (in Cornwall) will be used," said Diamond in an email. "I believe the city has several ball fields with lights, but no soccer fields with lights nor does it have a turf field."

Diamond said regular season and practice scheduling is up to the individual teams and clubs and those groups will have to rework those mandates.

He also said the non-profit provincial soccer governing body is a rental fee-paying client like other user groups and not part of the funding solution.

Cornwall's Terry Fox Complex with two similar turf fields opened in September 2010.