Synthetic tracks and turf fields coming to Secord, Eastdale and Eden
The District School Board of Niagara’s artificial turf building boom continues.
The board announced Thursday it would spend approximately $9 million to install synthetic tracks and turf fields at Laura Secord, Eastdale, and Eden secondary schools. Included in the costs are new bleachers and lighting, and other amenities yet to be announced.
The new facilities will add to previously constructed turf fields at A.N. Myer, E.L .Crossley, Governor Simcoe, Sir Winston Churchill, Greater Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Welland Centennial, St. Catharines Collegiate, West Niagara and Westlane. With the continued support of DSBN’s board of trustees, it expects to keep building synthetic tracks and turf fields at its remaining secondary schools where facilities can be built, namely Stamford Collegiate in Niagara Falls and Thorold Secondary School.
“These facilities have tremendous value for students and families, and really, for everyone in the community,” said Sue Barnett, the DSBN’s chair of the board. “They are state-of-the-art, they are more sustainable, more resilient to wear and tear than grass fields, and they can be enjoyed for many years to come. These are the investments that improve our schools and communities and are the investments we will continue to make.”
It is not a stretch to say the DSBN has the best athletic facilities in the province.
“There is no question in my mind, from a high school perspective and when you look at secondary schools across the province with these additional three that will be 13,” said Warren Hoshizaki, the DSBN’s director of education.
Once the news came out, he was fielding calls from other boards asking how the DSBN was managing to do it. The answer to that was simple.
“It is managing finances very well. As you know, we have closed some very small schools in the past and therefore we have surplus funds that we can use for these kinds of things to add to our system,” Hoshizaki said. “Right-sizing your school system makes a real difference.”
The turf fielding bonanza started when Greater Fort Erie Secondary School was built in 2016.
“I don’t think it was anyone specific in the board and I think it was more from the staff and students first, looking at all the things we could add to the school,” he said. “One was the theatre we put in that school and the other option was to look at the synthetic field. When we opened that one, to see the reaction of our students and our athletes was just tremendous and we just grew from there.”
Hoshizaki and the board initially didn’t realize how transforming the fields would be.
“When we first started, we thought it would be for just athletes but then as we built that field in Greater Fort Erie, we found out that they were used by way more than just the athletes or the athletic teams. All the phys-ed classes could use it, it was used by students with special needs and the field could be opened way earlier than an ordinary field in Canada. We found out those things very early and we realized it gave a big advantage to students in our schools.”
It also enhanced programs such as field lacrosse and Ultimate Frisbee.
“Because the field was always in such good shape, it could stay open earlier and longer.”
The benefits of the fields spread quickly beyond the schools.
“We found community groups wanted to participate after school was over and that was an advantage for everybody in the community. Every single field that we have opened we have partnerships with community organizations,” Hoshizaki said.
The board has picked up knowledge along the way.
“We have learned a lot of lessons. The first few we built without lights but right away we knew it could be used in the evening by our athletic teams and they really wanted to play in the evenings. That is when the community and parents can come and watch them play,” he said. “We learned about that and bleachers, and sound systems and how to hook them up.”
He is retiring soon and he doesn’t view the turf fields as part of his legacy because so many people had a hand in making it a reality.
“Absolutely not. I was out watching Myer in the championship game under the lights, I will drop into Westlane and see them play and I have been to many games at GFESS and it’s just seeing the students being so successful and so happy. You see some of the track results we are getting and they are outstanding,” he said. “That’s my legacy, just watching those kids and seeing the smiles on their faces.”
A date for when the new tracks and fields at Laura Secord, Eastdale, and Eden will be completed is still to be announced.
There is also no timetable for Stamford and Thorold.
“We have to figure that little bowl out at Stamford and at Thorold we are working with the council to try and build a partnership so we can work on that property too,” Hoshizaki said. “We are always open for our next phase and you can only build so much in one year. We will certainly be looking at those things next year as the budget comes around again.”