Thunder Bay

Indoor soccer players again struggling to find space, Soccer Northwest says

Soccer Northwest is renewing calls for the City of Thunder Bay to build a permanent, all-season turf sports facility over concerns for the upcoming indoor soccer season.

Organization asked to use Neebing arena, city reportedly declined

Michael Veneziale of Soccer Northwest and the Thunder Bay Men's Soccer League says space for indoor soccer will again be difficult to find this winter. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Soccer Northwest is renewing calls for the City of Thunder Bay to build a permanent, all-season turf sports facility over concerns for the upcoming indoor soccer season.

Michael Veneziale, the technical director for Soccer Northwest and president of the Thunder Bay men's soccer league, said space to play the sport in Thunder Bay has been dwindling since the Sports Dome collapsed nearly two years ago.

"Nothing is running fully," he said of the city's leagues. "I believe Lakehead Express will still be playing at the college bubble, but that'll be the extent of it."

Last winter, the men's league cancelled its indoor season altogether, while the women's league played a greatly-shortened season in the Lakehead University fieldhouse gym. The Chill played as well, but sporadically, Veneziale said.

He said Soccer Northwest asked the city to use Neebing Arena for indoor soccer for a year or two as a temporary solution, but the city declined.

Veneziale said he wasn't sure why the request was turned down; city representatives could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Another setback concerns the city's failed plan to build two new outdoor turf fields, Veneziale said. The city had $1.1 million, and were hoping for matching funds from the government, but that didn't come through.

The city then scaled back their plans, intending to build one new field, and put it out for tender, Veneziale said. But the bids came in much higher than anticipated.

Now, he said, the city is going to fix up one of the existing fields at Chapples Park with the money. Not only will the work take the field out of commission until 2020, the new turf fields would have made a good, temporary indoor space, Veneziale said, with a little bit of extra work.

"You can put up a temporary facility like a bubble overtop of it to get us through a couple of years," he said. "It would have been zoned properly, it would have been in the right location, and it would have fit everybody's needs."

Soccer Northwest had found a temporary home for indoor soccer last fall, in a former sawmill on Maureen Street. However, a private company filed an Ontario Municipal Board appeal, and halted the project.

The city is moving ahead with its plans for a permanent indoor turf sports facility — a request for expressions of interest has been released — but that project is in the very early stages, and has not been formally approved.

"With all of the work and all the money and all the time that's been spent showing that this is needed, that it can make money, that it will help out so many different user groups, it doesn't make any sense to me why the money just isn't put forward," Veneziale said.

"We need the money put forward so then we can help sustain it."