Artificial turf real possibility in Courtenay

The Comox Valley took a big step toward receiving an artificial turf field Monday.

In a proposed project, one would be constructed over the existing field at G.P. Vanier Secondary School in 2014.

The estimated cost is $1.44 million, but Comox Valley United Soccer has committed $400,000 towards the project, and Courtenay council unanimously approved an $860,000-contribution during Monday's council meeting.

The $860,000 would come directly from the sale of City-owned land near Lerwick and Mission Roads to the Vancouver Island Health Authority for the Comox Valley Hospital project. The land is currently used as a playing field and Courtenay said, back in June, it would use the proceeds for another playing field if it sold the land.

Coun. Manno Theos, a past soccer coach, noted the proposed project is very exciting for soccer enthusiasts in the Valley.

"This gives us a real opportunity to compete for some of these big tournaments that want to participate here on the Island," said Theos. "I know, going to other tournaments in the past, that one of the big questions was, you know, the lack of an artificial turf field in the Comox Valley — and this vision here will address that concern head on."

The project is regional, with School District 71, the Comox Valley Regional District, the Town of Comox and Comox Valley United Soccer and Courtenay working together on it.

Courtenay director of community services Randy Wiwchar noted the partners looked at the project's feasibility on many levels and everyone agreed an artificial turf field at Vanier is the most feasible project for the Valley.

The soccer group has worked on developing an artificial turf field in the Valley for a number of years, but their 2011 proposal for two fields (estimated at a cost of $4.4 million) at Valley View Park in East Courtenay was not approved.

According to Wiwchar's report, the Vanier field project will now go to the CVRD for budget review and approval.

Wiwchar added that if approved by the CVRD, partner groups would spend the next year finalizing a joint use agreement. SD71 and the CVRD would be the main partners in the project, and would share ongoing maintenance costs.

He noted the location is a central hub for the regional district with amenities close at hand — such as the Comox Valley Sports Centre — there's plenty of parking and the exhibition grounds are close by.

Also, because the new field would go overtop of the existing field, there's already lighting set up.

Councillors were enthusiastic about the project, especially pointing out how well the partners have worked together so far, and noting Comox Valley United Soccer's financial contribution.

The $400,000 from the soccer group and Courtenay's financial contribution make up $1.26 million of the estimated $1.44 million cost, which Mayor Larry Jangula was pleased about.

"It is a very expensive proposition but when you start splitting it … it starts to make the proposal a lot more palatable for our taxpayer," said Jangula. "It's actually, in my opinion, an excellent proposal and well spent money on our behalf."

The matter is expected to come up at various partner group meetings this week as well.

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