The University of Moncton’s stadium is undergoing a $1.5-million conversion to artificial turf, a move that will allow the city to host two major international soccer tournaments but will push other sports to the sidelines.
Moncton is one of six Canadian cities that will host games at this year’s U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Moncton was obligated to replace the grass field with artificial turf as part of its agreement to host the international matches.
“The surface is one example of FIFA's mandate to ensure that we're offering literally a level and equitable playing field for all of the participants,” said Stéphane Delisle, the venue general manager for FIFA Women's World Cup 2015.
The work on the stadium’s pitch started last fall when the original grass surface was dug up and the foundation was remade.
“New irrigation was installed and then what you're seeing is this spring they were able to finish that subsurface and then install what they call in the industry, the carpet or the artificial turf,” he said.
FIFA, soccer's international governing body, is paying roughly $1.5 million for the turf and its installation.
The new turf will get its first exposure to international competition on Aug. 6 when the first match of the U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off.
It is estimated the international soccer tournaments could generate more than $20 million in revenue for the greater Moncton area.
Turf field limits use
The conversion to artificial turf is making it possible for the city to become an international player in hosting large sporting events. But it is coming at a cost for other sports.
Athletics Canada wrote to Moncton last year raising concerns about the move to a turf field at the stadium. The national organization's chief executive officer warned the decision could take away future events from the city.
The new field is already having a direct affect on many of the province's top athletes. Christel Robichaud's summer plans have now been upended by the decision.
Robichaud, a para-athlete, is preparing for the Canadian Track and Field Championships that will be held in Moncton in June. However, she won't be able to throw discus or shot put in the stadium because of the new turf.
The City of Moncton is spending almost $500,000 to build a new field, adjacent to the stadium. But that will take athletes, such as Robichaud, away from the main venue.
"Well everyone's around there, and ... you’re with everyone. Where we're going to throw it's going to be a bit apart from everyone and it kind of feels like you're not that included," she said.
Gabriel Robichaud, the technical director with Athletics New Brunswick, said the new field is a compromise.
“For our local meets, the upper field is actually really, really good because we'd gave multiple throws at the same time, where we can do javelin, hammer, shot put all at the same time, where we're sometimes limited in a field,” he said.