Limited access to new Little Burgundy soccer field disappoints residents

Little Burgundy residents finally get what they were asking for—a new soccer field—but they can only use it 12 hours a week.

Borough councillor says hours will increase every year as the grass gets stronger,

Taufiq Rahman says he barely has the chance to play on the new Little Burgundy soccer field in Oscar Peterson park because it's only open 12 hours a week. (CBC)

The soccer field that residents of Little Burgundy petitioned to have refurbished has reopened, but some say it's not what they were hoping for.

The natural grass field at Oscar Peterson Park in Montreal's Southwest borough has been years in the making and cost $900,000.

Now that it's finally ready, though, it's only open 12 hours a week.

"Everyone wants to play in the newly renovated field but only a few people or a few groups have access to it," because of the limited amount of time they can use it, said Little Burgundy resident Musabbir Alam.

Another resident, Taufiq Rahman, said the limited hours prevent young athletes from honing their skills. 

"A lot of youth [in this community] have the potential to develop all sorts of skills, sports or otherwise, and when they don't have access to something they can use to develop, it gets them bored," Rahman said.

Hours to increase as grass gets stronger

Borough councillor Alain Vaillancourt said consultations were held with the community to decide whether to recover the field, which was uneven and patchy before, with natural grass or synthetic turf.

The main benefit of a grass pitch is that it lasts forever if it's well-maintained, while synthetic grass only lasts about seven years, according to Vaillancourt. The community chose grass, he says.

"I know that in the beginning it's difficult to know you can only play a certain amount of hours, but in the end I think it's going to be worth the investment."

Borough councillor Alain Vaillancourt says he's open to finding extra hours at other community soccer fields or even creating ad hoc ones so more people can play. (CBC)

Vaillancourt says the first year after a natural field is laid, the sod needs to take and can't survive too much of the trampling, jumping, running and kicking that come with the beloved sport.

"It's a big investment on our part, we wanted to make sure we did it right," he told CBC News at the park Monday. "In the long run, it's definitely worth [it]."

The number of hours people will be allowed to use the field will increase every year, he added.

The cost of the field includes a three-year contract for the contractor that renovated it to maintain it and teach the borough to take over the maintenance duties. It ran high because of the cost to decontaminate the soil, he said. 

The new field is part of a larger project to revamp Oscar Peterson Park, which includes a new playground and a renovated chalet.

Would synthetic have been better?

Still, the hassle to book a time and the prospect of having to wait years before the field is available for more than a few hours a week is starting to make Alam think a synthetic surface would have been a better choice.

He said the grass in front of the goals is already wearing out, water is pooling in some areas and some have taken to hopping the fence to play off-hours.
The grass is already wearing in front of the goals at the brand new soccer field in Little Burgundy's Oscar Peterson park. (CBC)

Vaillancourt assured that part of the maintenance will include putting new sod down in front of the goals every year.

He says he's happy to work with residents to see if he can offer them hours at other fields in the community — of which he says he's overseen the refurbishment of five already. But Rahman says the others are far away.

Rahman said he wants a sit down with the borough to find a "middle ground."

The councillor says he's game, even suggesting that the borough could find areas that aren't soccer fields but that could serve as impromptu fields for people to play on.

"I'm a sports guy, I'm in charge of the sports, so we'll do everything in our power to make sure that they're accommodated, for sure," Vaillancourt said.

With files from CBC's Navneet Pall and Gregory Todaro


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