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Field size limits growth

The Bowen Island Football Club has a large number of kids enrolled in U11 and younger. But when the soccer enthusiasts move on to play at the U13 level, many drop out because this involves traveling off island for practices as well as games.

The Bowen Island Football Club has a large number of kids enrolled in U11 and younger. But when the soccer enthusiasts move on to play at the U13 level, many drop out because this involves traveling off island for practices as well as games. Morgan Quarry and Burn Jennings of the Bowen Island Football Club approached council on Monday, April 23, with the idea to expand the BICS grass field to accommodate league games for U13 and older.

"The Football Club started in 2007. At that time, we had 60 youth players registered," Quarry said. "Now we have 130 youth players and we are hoping to reach 140 for 2012. We currently have 120 players who play co-ed league and four teams that play league."

The Football Club is not the only user of the BICS grass field. IPS students play ultimate there. BICS has 350 students who use the space. Municipal recreation sees about 100 participants per week and island residents enjoy unscheduled field time. With such a high demand, the field has reached a limit, especially for the Football Club. Burns Jennings said, "We have to turn players away as we have no more uniforms and no more turf time."

But since the interest is there, the club wants to take an active part in making changes to the field. "The current grass field does not meet the minimum standards of 45 metres by 90 metres in order to play league games," Quarry said. "In order to keep teams at that age group playing on Bowen, we need to expand it. Otherwise these players have to go off island and that is taxing both on the players and their parents."

Enlarging the field means removing the baseball backstop and Quarry said that the club has already talked to community recreation and the school district and does not anticipate objections. The perimeter fencing on the north side needs to be pushed back and the shed relocated. And the expanded field has to be sanded and seeded. Jennings said, "On the east side of the field, the fence line is not on the property line. There is a long triangle of municipal land and in order to move forward, we need an agreement from council."

Quarry said that the club envisions the field to be ready in September 2012 dependent on funding. But he and Jennings did not come to council to ask for money. Instead, they propose to see the project to completion with volunteer labour and by engaging contractors who would charge minimal cost. The expense will be covered by surplus funds from the Bowen Island Football Club and additional fundraising if needed.

There are many benefits to the project, according to Quarry. They include being able to play league games on island and thereby reducing stress and commuting costs for families. He showed a photo of five boys who used to be enrolled in soccer but now, four of them don't play. Quarry said, "There are 36 families involved in U13 in 2012 and, looking at current enrollment numbers, we might have up to 72 families in U13 by 2014. By expanding the field, we'll avoid drop-outs."

Quarry said that having a field for league games would also benefit the business community. "When we play leagues games at the U10 level, we always have teams coming from the mainland." Jennings added that those players and their families frequent local businesses and often come back to Bowen Island to visit.

"We have much accomplished so far. The turf field is in constant use. There are co-ed games played every weekday night. And the municipality's contribution to repairing and maintaining the grass field has allowed us to play games on Bowen through the winter season," Quarry said, adding that the size of the grass field is the single biggest obstacle to the growth of the Football Club.

Quarry ended his presentation by saying that sports and recreation help to build community. Jennings asked council to prepare a letter of support. "With this, we can go back to the members of the club and ask for money," he said. Both Quarry and Jennings believe that the club can cover the cost of the work on the field. Jennings said it is a win-win situation as this saves money for Bowen families in the long run - every trip into town adds up: cost for the ferry (for parents) and lunches in addition to a huge time commitment.

Councillor Stone said that he supports the project as it will save time and money for Bowen families. "You are asking for support but no money," councillor Duntz said. "This must be the first time that has happened."

CAO Kathy Lalonde suggested that council approve the expansion of the BICS grass field in principle, subject to approval by School District 45 and with the provision that the work plan will be reviewed and approved by staff and that no cost to be incurred by the municipality. All councillors voted in favour.