Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay soccer organization 'saddened' over indoor field dispute

A representative of Soccer Northwest says the organization is "saddened" over not being able to offer full indoor soccer seasons this winter.

Winter seasons not going forward at temporary Maureen Street facility

Soccer Northwest says it's "saddened" that it won't be able to offer full indoor soccer this winter. (CBC)

A representative of Soccer Northwest says the organization is "saddened" over not being able to offer a full indoor soccer season this winter.

The group had been renovating a former sawmill on Maureen Street in Thunder Bay — installing artificial turf and washrooms — to give the Thunder Bay men's and women's soccer leagues, and the Thunder Bay Chill, a place to play during the cold winter months.

But an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal filed by a private company has halted those plans, said Michael Veneziale, president of the men's league and Soccer Northwest's director of senior soccer.

"Anytime something like this doesn't go through it's sad, because it's people that are missing out," Veneziale said. "And we wanted to be able to facilitate soccer for as many people as possible, and we weren't able to do that".

Costs, time prohibitive

Veneziale said it's unlikely indoor soccer will ever be played at the Maureen Street location.

"It was explained to us that the appeal process could take four to six months, and that's something that we simply don't have the time to do," he said. "That's a whole season gone for us."

He added the group was told it could cost them a minimum of $200,000 to go through the process, and they don't have the funds to pay for that.

"People, when they think of this Maureen Street location, I think they have a toxic waste dump area associated with it," Veneziale said. "It's not — it is a concrete and steel building essentially in the middle of a parking lot."

Soccer space limited

Space to play indoor soccer has been limited since the Sports Dome collapsed in November last year. The dome has not been repaired.

The men's league has been completely cancelled, Veneziale said. The women's league and Chill are trying to find playing space at city gyms, and the hangar and fieldhouse at Lakehead University, but there aren't many times available, he said.

Veneziale said the group was looking at some other locations, but none were as suitable as the Maureen Street spot. 

One issue was size — Maureen Street would have allowed for two turf fields, while all the other spots would have been limited to one.

None of the other spots are an option now, though, because all require zoning changes, which, again, would take too long to salvage this season, Veneziale said.

Bubble didn't meet needs

One of the people behind the OMB appeal has been identified as Robert Zanette, whose RZ Realty Services has signed a lease with Confederation College to operate the college's former athletic facility, known as the bubble.

Veneziale said Soccer Northwest didn't think the bubble was an appropriate spot because it didn't meet the group's needs.

Soccer Northwest continues to push for a permanent turf sports facility in Thunder Bay, and plans to make another presentation to city council in the near future, said Veneziale.

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