With loss of indoor pitch, Grande Prairie soccer club forced to turn away 150 players

The head of a Grande Prairie soccer club says there aren’t enough places for everyone to play this winter as a former indoor pitch is set for demolition.

Derek Van Tassell, president of Swan City FC, said the club has turned away 150 youth and adult players this indoor season due to a lack of space to play.

“For the first time ever, we’re in a situation where we’ve actually had to turn down kids to play indoor soccer,” Van Tassell said in an interview with CBC News. 

On Monday, Grande Prairie city council voted to have administration look at potential locations for a new indoor pitch within city limits.

‘We need something now’

Van Tassell said his club has been asking municipal governments for a new facility since September 2020. 

“We need something now, and that’s really become noticeable with the impending demolition,” he told CBC.

The Leisure Centre closed in December.

The centre had two indoor soccer pitches. Pitch 1 stands alone and will not be demolished. Pitch 2 is in a separate building which is slated to come down along with the adjoining old Composite High School.

A new Composite High School opened in September.

City council voted in 2021 to demolish the building that houses Pitch 2 rather than retrofitting the pitch to a standalone building.

“We explored many options, but we determined that it was more fiscally responsible and cost effective to demolish it,” Mayor Jackie Clayton said in an interview.

Two grey buildings on a winter day. The one on the right has a faded sign that says Leisure Centre.
The Leisure Centre’s Pitch 1, left, will not be demolished. Pitch 2 is inside the shorter building, which is slated to come down. (Luke Ettinger/CBC)

In 2022, the city allocated $100,000 to help Swan City FC work toward a new pitch project.

The mayor said the city is working alongside regional partners but the pandemic slowed progress. 

“Priorities changed. And so now soccer is back and expressing their opinion that it’s a significant priority to them. And we appreciate that,” Clayton said.

Clayton said the Grande Prairie Regional Recreation Committee is also looking into options like the Crosslink County Sportsplex to include more indoor pitches.

Van Tassell said that in July 2022, the soccer club offered financial assistance to help finalize the design of the sportsplex expansion. 

“Unfortunately, pace of progress is slow and we still haven’t heard a response to that offer,” he said. 

Dome pitch

In the meantime, Swan City FC is pitching options to expand indoor play availability for soccer and other sports like cricket, rugby and lacrosse by constructing a dome.

Clayton said city council expects to receive a report from administration on potential locations for a 135,000-square-foot facility in the coming weeks.

Still, Van Tassell said he isn’t optimistic there will be a solution before the 2023-24 indoor season. 

“It’s just the pace of government,” he said. “But when it comes down to kids actually not being able to play a sport, it does get a little more irritating.”