On Sunday (April 10), players, parents, coaches and officials packed the Brennan Park Auditorium -twice - as the Squamish Youth Soccer Association (SYSA) wrapped up its 2010-'11 season with two separate awards ceremonies.
Those who attended will likely attest that this is a soccer town: More than 900 players aged five to 17 enjoyed participating in "the beautiful game" this past season, and all indications are that it will top 1,000 in the not-too-distant future. In a town of 16,000, those numbers are a credit to the all-volunteer SYSA leadership and the support they receive.
So, yes, it's a soccer town. But it's also a mountain biking town, a skiing town, a climbing town and a watersports town. Maybe that's why Squamish is touted as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. We all have our own special interests -some of us more than one. And therein lies the seeds of the dilemma facing our elected leaders when deciding where to spend the $620,000 that remains in what was once a $750,000 2010 Legacy Fund.
It's a nice problem to have, of course, but not an enviable decision. The three "major" proposals still seeking money from the fund are the turfing of one or more of the soccer fields at Brennan Park, a mountain bike skills development park and a Squamish "Legacy" Sports Park that would include ski jumps to be used as a training ground for larger ones used for competitions in the Callaghan Valley.
Full disclosure: This writer is a soccer coach who was among the throng at Sunday's season wrap-up events. Having a turf field or fields would certainly make life easier for our local clubs in trying to organize both "house" and "travel team" games here. Travel teams wouldn't have to travel as much during the rainy months because they would have the option of playing on the turf instead of having to move games to the North Shore or elsewhere when the grass fields are closed.
The Sport Legacy Park proposal represents an opportunity to benefit the community economically by bringing athletes here to train where there are few or none now. The Whistler Olympic Park ski jumps are a terrific Olympic legacy, but could become white elephants if athletes don't come here to train. The smaller jumps proposed for Squamish would likely help accomplish that task.
There's also no question about the merits of having a mountain bike skills park in a mountain biking town such as ours.
At this week's Squamish council meeting, Coun. Corinne Lonsdale made a motion to grant the entire $620,000 to the turf-fields proposal. It was not seconded - even Coun. Paul Lalli, a soccer dad and ardent supporter of the turf-fields proposal, said he wanted to wait and hear out the groups supporting the other two proposals. (It is not, by the way, a conflict of interest for Lalli to speak in favour of the proposal, just as it isn't a conflict for Coun. Doug Race to advocate for sail training boats or Coun. Rob Kirkham to seek help for the curling club.)
Given the support shown for soccer (and other sports and events that would benefit), giving the entire sum to the turf-fields proposal would not be a mistake. It seems to this writer that the turf field(s) would provide maximum bang for our Legacy Fund buck, but it's also important that we don't jump the gun and short-circuit the process council has agreed to follow.
- David Burke