Thunder Bay Catholic high schools get new playing fields
Local minor sports leagues could benefit too, according to a school board official
Students at St. Patrick and St. Ignatius High Schools in Thunder Bay, Ont., will have some quality new fields to play on when they go back to school next month.
The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board is putting the finishing touches on a pair of high-end artificial turf fields valued at approximately $4.4 million.
"We're excited, because about a year ago, this was just a concept, so to see this happening is pretty exciting," said Tom Mustapic, the board's capital plan supervisor.
Thunder Bay's climate often left the old fields too soggy to play on and made them hard to maintain, Mustapic said.
"In the fall, what we were finding is that the football players were beating up the turf quite significantly," he said. "The season would end followed by a snowfall shortly after that, and really there was not time to properly maintain the fields."
"So over time, it was just a bit of a downward spiral where the fields were slightly worse every year."
The new fields should extend the schools' sports seasons by a month on each end, he said, adding they should also be safer to play on.
The fields could also serve the larger community, Mustapic said, adding that the board has been in touch with minor soccer and football clubs about using the spaces outside of school hours.
"We see this as a pretty good solution for some of the lack of ... proper playing field issues that we have in Thunder Bay," he said.
Fields to be complete by mid-September
The dimensions of the tracks and fields also lend themselves to hosting larger events, should the opportunity present itself, Mustapic said.
As well, the board is contemplating allowing people who live in the schools' neighbourhoods to go jogging on the tracks after hours.
The field at St. Patrick is due to be completed on or around the Labour Day weekend and St. Ignatius should be done around Sept. 15.
St. Ignatius' football team will likely practice at an alternate site — likely the Casino Grounds — for about a week while the finishing touches are completed, Mustapic said.
The cost of the new fields won't impact spending on the delivery of education, he added.
The money comes from provincial funding specifically earmarked for maintaining the school grounds.