Goodbye soccer players, hello pot producers: Players Paradise sold to cannabis company

Stoney Creek sports complex Players Paradise has been sold to a marijuana producer in advance of pot legalization in Canada this fall.
Players Paradise soccer complex in Stoney Creek has been sold. (Chris Glover/CBC)

There'll be grass on the field at Players Paradise this winter — but definitely no kids playing ball.

The Stoney Creek sports complex has been sold to a marijuana producer.

"Players Paradise was approached by a real estate investment firm who has partnered with Green Relief, a medical cannabis company," said Tasha Mazza, president of Players Paradise, in a statement. "They were looking for a facility in a specific geographic area with unique structural needs and required quick possession of the facility."

Whether or not the building was actually up for sale initially is a matter of contention between the buyer and the seller.

In a statement, Warren Bravo, CEO of Green Relief Inc., said the company did not "actively pursue the purchase of this building."

"The building had been for sale for some time before we were approached by a third party to see if we would be interested in having a look at the structure," Bravo said. "After some investigation, we realized that this deal not only made a lot of sense for Green Relief, but for the Stoney Creek community as well."

This building was full. It was benefiting a lot of people within the community.- Sam Disanto, president of the Saltfleet Stoney Creek Soccer Club

But Mazza said the place was not listed for sale. She said Player's Paradise was approached by a private real estate firm who had been hired by Bravo's company, and then decided to sell.

Green Relief says it plans to sink $9 million into retrofitting the building, and those construction projects will be "entirely completed by Hamilton-based engineering and construction work forces."

The company also says it will also be hosting a job fair in the coming months, and that it plans to create "approximately 100 new living wage jobs."

Players Paradise shutting down at the end of October

The sports complex is closing its doors as of Oct. 31 — and that's leaving some organizations scrambling.

Sam Disanto, the president of the Saltfleet Stoney Creek Soccer Club, told CBC News that the owner of the complex issued a notice late last week that Players Paradise had been sold.

Saltfleet, which had been based out of the complex for about ten years, has around 3,000 members there in programs ranging from youth soccer to elite teams.

Now, Saltfleet has been told they have 30 days to relocate, Disanto said, adding he was "blindsided" by the sale.

"It's pretty shocking," he said.

Laurie Petrou has a 10-year-old son who plays on a Saltfleet soccer team. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Laurie Petrou's ten-year-old son plays for a Saltfleet team. She said she is immensely frustrated by the sale.

"If there was one hockey rink sold to a cannabis producer, there would be national outrage," she said.

"It just feels like a slap in the face."

The company says it's aware Saltfleet is being forced out of the building, and said in a statement that it is "planning to provide the organization with $10,000 in financial aid to help with relocation expenses.

"Green Relief is here to help the soccer organization with their relocation, and should the city decide to create a new indoor soccer facility, Green Relief will absolutely be contributing financially to that initiative," Bravo said.

Pot becoming big business

Local cannabis companies are ramping up quickly as Canada's legalization date of Oct. 17 approaches. There's a push to hire growers, as well as technical and administrative staff. Data on legalized weed sales suggest retail value of some $2 billion in the first year in Ontario.

It's a big business, and one that requires plenty of space. Radicle Inc., another production facility in the city with government contracts, told CBC News in a previous interview that it is looking to expand to a 150,000 square foot facility.

Space is something Players Paradise has. The company's website describes the building as a "state-of-the-art indoor sports facility" with "the latest in turf technology, 52-foot ceilings and premium amenities." The fields consist of a FIFA approved 200-foot by 360-foot field that can be broken out into four playing fields of 90 feet by 200 feet.

Saltfleet Stoney Creek Soccer Club had been operating out of Player's Paradise for about ten years. (Playersparadisesoccer.com)

A 10,000 gallon tank was buried under the parking lot of the facility with a collection system in place to gather rainwater and recycle it throughout the building's toilets. 

The building's rubber infill turf system is made from recycled tires that have been broken down, cryogenically frozen, and then turned into turf.

Green Relief says it grows organic medical cannabis using aquaponics, a "sustainable growing method where fish and plants work together in a balanced ecosystem that uses 90 per cent less water than conventional agriculture."

On top of Saltfleet, Players Paradise included tenants like Absolute Soccer, Global Fitness and GPS Academy. 

Disanto said Saltflet's programming will likely have to be scaled down this fall, as the group scrambles to find new office space, and places for kids to play in local gyms.

"This building was full. It was benefiting a lot of people within the community," Disanto said.

"It's tough to accept."

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.