Thunder Bay·Audio

Thunder Bay, Ont. indoor soccer finds temporary winter home

Thunder Bay indoor soccer has found a new, temporary, home. After a tough 2016/2017 season that saw the number of teams and players drop drastically due to a lack of space, a new home has been found for the sport in the city.

New facility to house two turf fields; still a need for permanent space

Thunder Bay's indoor soccer players will have a new place to play this winter. (CBC)

Thunder Bay indoor soccer has found a new, temporary, home.

After a tough 2016/2017 season that saw the number of teams and players drop drastically due to a lack of space, a new home has been found for the sport in the city.

Two turf fields are being installed in a Maureen Street warehouse, located just across the Central Avenue bridge. It will be used by three local clubs — the Thunder Bay men's and women's leagues, as well as the Thunder Bay Chill — over the winter months.

At least for this year. The president of the men's league says, as critical as the new space is, it's still a short-term solution.

"It'll kind of meet the needs for what we need right now," Michael Veneziale said. "We're still not anywhere near where we need to be."

Space has long been an issue for indoor soccer players in the city, but the problem was exacerbated last fall when the Sports Dome collapsed. The dome hasn't been replaced.

Indoor soccer was heavily played in the dome during the winter, and when that option disappeared, Veneziale said, the leagues were scrambling to find a new field to accommodate the rapidly-growing sport.

That led them to the Hangar at Lakehead University, and while Veneziale praised Lakehead for working to accomodate soccer, there simply wasn't enough space there. Youth soccer was relegated to early morning hours, while adults waited until 10:30 pm to take the field on weekdays.

"We had 32 teams at the dome," Veneziale said. "I think we went down to eight, and that was just the men's league."

The women's league, he said, didn't even run an indoor season last winter.

Warehouse to accommodate two fields

The leagues have completely moved out of the Hangar now with the lease of the Maureen Street warehouse, however.

Veneziale said two turf fields will be installed, as well as bathrooms, water-filling stations, change rooms and bleachers.

"Thirty-two teams is the amount that we're able to hold," Veneziale said. "We won't be able to facilitate everybody, but now we're back to 32, so that's a great start."

He said the fields should be up and running by November.

Need for permanent facility remains

The quest for a permanent facility continues, however.

"The facility we're looking for, it isn't going to be a soccer facilty," Veneziale said. "Yes, it will facilitate soccer, but we really want to grow turf sports in our long winter time — we're looking at bringing in baseball, football, frisbee. We're looking at the possibility of adding a walking track around the outside of the soccer field."

"We really want this to be a community centre."

Veneziale said a draft plan has been done, that includes a business case study and some schematic designs. The draft plan is being brought to city administration for review, and then it will be presented to council.

"I really think that we're going to have good backing from city council," he said. "We just need to get the city's signature, so we can start looking forward to other funding."

Veneziale said the council presentation will likely take place in late-September or early-October.

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