Thunder Bay·Audio

Thunder Bay Catholic high schools get new playing fields

New artificial turf fields and rubber-surfaced tracks valued at more than $4 million will be in place at St. Patrick and St. Ignatius high schools by mid-September. The rest of the community could benefit too, the board's capital plan supervisor told CBC.

Local minor sports leagues could benefit too, according to a school board official

St Patrick High School in Thunder Bay is one of two schools getting new artificial turf fields. (Google)

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. 

"The snow melts some time in late March [or] early April, that's followed by wet conditions for usually about a month, depending on what the weather's like," he said, adding that fields would often be unusable for three or four days after a rainfall. 
A new artificial turf field at St. Patrick High School in Thunder Bay, Ont., is about two weeks away from completion, according to the Catholic school board's capital plan supervisor, Tom Mustapic. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

"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. 

"It's a community facility so we think people should have access to it," Mustapic said.
Tom Mustapic is the capital plan supervisor for the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board. He said the old playing fields at St. Patrick and St. Ignatius High Schools were too soggy to play on for three or four days after every rainfall. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

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.

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