Thunder Bay

Soccer Northwest weighing options as plans for winter season halted

Soccer Northwest's hunt for a place to play indoor soccer in Thunder Bay this winter may not be over.

Had planned to start winter season at Maureen Street building by Nov. 13

Soccer Northwest is weighing its options after its plans to use a Maureen Street building as a temporary indoor soccer facility were halted due to an Ontario Municipal Board appeal. (CBC)

Soccer Northwest's hunt for a place to play indoor soccer in Thunder Bay this winter may not be over.

The group received Thunder Bay City Council's approval to install two turf fields at an empty building on Maureen Street for use this winter. It was to be a temporary fix that would allow the city's men's and women's leagues, and the Thunder Bay Chill, to play indoor soccer during the winter in a city where space for the sport has been difficult to find since the Sports Dome collapsed last year.

However, a numbered Ontario company has filed an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), so no soccer will be played at the Maureen Street location until the appeal is addressed, said Michael Veneziale, director of senior soccer with Soccer Northwest, and president of the Thunder Bay Men's Soccer League.

"We are looking at, essentially, every single option," Veneziale said. "We are looking into a completely new location. It will not be anywhere remotely as ideal as what we had planned on Maureen Street, and if we have to, we'll be doing school gyms."

Thunder Bay's Sports Dome collapsed during a November 2016 storm, leaving soccer organizations scrambling to find a place to run indoor soccer leagues in the city. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

"We'll figure out a way to get people to play, but there's no way we're going to have any semblance of a full season, or be able to facilitate soccer for everybody," Veneziale said. "It's just not going to happen."

Further information about the appeal could not be obtained from the OMB on the weekend.

Permanent facility needed

The initial plan was to have soccer up and running in the Maureen Street location by mid-November, Veneziale said.

Veneziale said the latest issue highlights how important it is for the city to develop a new, permanent facility that could be used for indoor soccer and other sports year-round.

"We want everybody to know that everybody's going to be welcome in this facility," he said. "Even how we're looking at building the structure of this has the possibility of a possible build-on for non-turf sports as well."

"We're looking at this as purely a communal facility."