Calgary soccer players still struggle to find time and space to play
The Calgary indoor soccer community is experiencing long overdue and welcome relief to current field shortages with last month's opening of the Genesis Centre of Community Wellness.
Tucked in the furthest reaches of the city's northeast sprawl, the facility houses two new indoor soccer fields to service the city's needs.
"This was really needed," said referee Craig McColgan. "With the collapse of the bubble dome we had to start using facilities in Airdrie and for families in southwest Calgary it's quite the trek. Opening up this facility will really help to offset that."
The centre's location also complements the demographic of its surrounding area.
"The Genesis centre has provided fields for indoor soccer in an area of the city where soccer is probably the most popular sport, so it has been a huge boost to Calgary youth soccer," said Daryl Leinweber, executive director for the Calgary Minor Soccer Association, or CMSA.
"It's really nice," said Anthony Tamatuy, whose daughter plays indoor soccer. "It's closer to us so we can save money to get here and when the kids have leisure time we can take part in the rest of the sporting facility."
The Genesis centre also offers public access to swimming pools, gymnasiums and a climbing wall.
But while the Genesis centre brings the total number of indoor fields to nine, it's still a far cry from the six to eight additional fields that Leinweber said were needed prior to the loss of four fields in the bubble dome.
Since the collapse of the city's bubble dome in 2010, the CMSA has been struggling to accommodate the demands for the 12,000 players it represents.
"We're still not back to where we were before the bubble went down," Leinweber said. "This is only two more fields to the current shortage."
Lack of space causing problems
The limited field space has resulted in a number of problems. From a shortened season, to games being played without practices in between, to inconsistent times between games, including having two games in a week and then having a game every two weeks.
"You can't run a balanced league without the right number of games," said Leinweber of the current conditions. "It's inconvenient."
Making sure all teams get on the field has also meant that adults are pushed to play late at night with young children playing as early as 7 a.m. on weekends.
"That's really early," said Krishna Atlazari, whose three children play indoor soccer. "It really puts a strain on the games and family."
The shortage for indoor soccer fields forces teams to practice in gyms that don't create the same conditions as boarded fields.
"Playing with a felt ball is not the true aspect of soccer. If you're able to practice on the field you play on, your skills become better," Leinweber said. "The better the skill, the more you enjoy the game."
After the city lost federal funding for the creation of four recreational facilities last fall, the Calgary Sports Council, which advocates for amateur sports facilities, has to look elsewhere for funding.
And while the Calgary Sports Council will be meeting with private investors in February, who are interested in potentially funding a $12-million facility near the airport, the discussions are still in preliminary stages.
But waiting for private investors, like the Multi-sport Group, isn't good enough for Leinweber, who said he thinks the city should shoulder more responsibility for initiating new development.
"It seems like we're always going through sponsorship and subsidizing money outside the system and I think we still need to look internally," Leinweber said.
- By jessica rafuse