Athletics Canada is raising concerns about Moncton’s decision to switch the grass field at the University of Moncton stadium to artificial turf to accommodate the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.
Moncton is one of six cities across Canada that is preparing to host the world’s largest women’s soccer tournament in 2015. One of the requirements that comes with securing the international tournament is that teams will play on a turf field.
While the city is preparing to host the FIFA tournament, the stadium has a history of holding track and field competitions.
The stadium was completed in time to host the 2010 IAAF world junior track and field championships and last month the stadium hosted the Canadian Track and Field Championships.
Rob Guy, the chief executive officer of Athletics Canada, said in a letter to the city that Canada's top athletics organization is concerned about the decision to replace the grass field with turf.
"We have been committed to Moncton and ensuring the world-class stadium would reach its full potential and leave a lasting legacy among the community and the decision of artificial turf would take future opportunities away," Guy’s letter said.
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The city has debated putting down a temporary artificial turf, but whatever way it decides to accommodate FIFA, it will be at an extra cost to Moncton taxpayers.
The city has already committed $1.5 million to meet FIFA standards to upgrade two practice fields to artificial turf.
Moncton is the only stadium that is planning to host the 2015 soccer tournament without artificial turf.
In Montreal, officials have spent $800,000 to add artificial turf and Edmonton has spent $2.6 million to bring its pitch up to FIFA’s standards.
Impacting local athletes
It isn’t only national and international sporting events that could be hurt by a permanent switch to artificial turf.
Local track athletes and groups say they are worried about what the switch will mean for them.
Stephanie Doiron, a heptathlete, uses the Moncton stadium now but she said she can’t train or compete on turf.
"We can't do javelin on an artificial turf because it could shatter the tip of the javelin," she said.
"And javelins are very expensive to replace. They're anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000."
The transition to artificial turf could also pose short-term problems for the province’s track and field community.
Gabriel LeBlanc, the director of Athletics New Brunswick, said Moncton is slated to host the national track and field championships again next year.
Athletics New Brunswick is worried the university’s field will be unusable with artificial turf.
"The city’s committed to the national’s next year, so we'll find a solution. But it's unfortunate if we can't have them throw in the stadium," LeBlanc said.
Moving forward, LeBlanc said the artificial turf will severely limit the stadium’s appeal to track organizations.
"A turf would kill our chances to host international meets and very limit ourselves on national events," LeBlanc said.