Toronto

School board tells fans to avoid excessive cheering at new soccer pitch after neighbours' complaints

As fans welcome the news that Toronto will be one of the host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, a different sort of head-to-head soccer match is unfolding in the Upper Beach.

Neighbours complain about fighting, shouting and lighting that's too bright

Members of a St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School soccer team practise on the new field Wednesday. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News )

As fans welcome the news that Toronto will be one of the host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, a different sort of head-to-head soccer match is unfolding in the Upper Beach.

On one side, the Toronto District Catholic School Board, which recently opened a state-of-the-art soccer field at St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School — a field that meets FIFA specifications. 

On the other, residents of neighbouring Torbrick Road, who say noise, swearing and excessive lighting during evening games are keeping them up at night.

They want the field shut down at 9 p.m., rather than at the current 11 p.m. curfew.

Toronto Catholic District School Board spokesperson John Yan says he's confident a solution can be found to the stalemate with local residents who are upset about noise and light from night games. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

The board says it's bent over backward to satisfy the neighbours' demands.

Within the last 10 days, they've equipped referees with special muted whistles, said board spokesperson John Yan, and installed mesh backdrops to keep stray balls out of the neighbours' yards.

Space for both youth and adult recreational soccer leagues is scarce in Toronto, the TCDSB maintains. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

But the people who live on Torbrick, including Jennifer Ward, say it's not enough.

"Eleven o'clock is pretty late when the sound reverberates off the school wall, washes into the neighbourhood itself and even with all windows and doors closed, you can still hear the sound of the whistling and the cheering and the play in your home," she said.

Because the field can be split into four smaller pitches for recreational and children's games, it can hold scores of people at one time. Ward says at a recent night game, she counted more than 100 players and spectators.

Coun. Paula Fletcher is speaking on behalf of local residents upset at the hours of play allowed at the new St. Patrick soccer field in the Upper Beach. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

As well, the lights pour into residents' homes until 11 p.m., according to Coun. Paula Fletcher, who represents the area.

On Wednesday evening, as FIFA was preparing to announce the joint bid by Canada, the US and Mexico had won the 2026 World Cup, a community meeting was underway at St. Patrick school with Yan, Torbrick residents and Fletcher.

It was the second such meeting since last month, when locals began lodging complaints about the noise and lighting. The new pitch opened officially last fall.

Some of the residents of these homes, adjacent to the controversial soccer pitch, complain about excess noise and lighting after 9 p.m. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

"The lights are very bright into peoples bedrooms," Fletcher told CBC Toronto Wednesday. "When kids should be going to bed and it's kind of your quiet time, that's when the cheering, the clapping, and the loud voices yelling, fighting, swearing ... at 11 o'clock, that's a lot," she said.
 
"We're willing to put up with teams playing on the field up to nine o'clock," she said. "Could you please reduce the hours and then we'll have a nice situation for the neighbourhood?" she requested.

But both Yan and Rob Davies, who runs one of the recreational leagues that uses the St. Patrick pitch, warned that limiting the hours would put a squeeze on the city's already limited soccer facilities.

Rob Davies is president of Sport and Social Club, one of the recreational leagues that play at the new St. Patrick pitch. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

That means some children's leagues could find themselves forced out at St. Patrick, they said.

"In general there's a shortage of fields in Toronto," Davies said. "It would just mean less time being shared among those groups. It's a battle for fields; there's just not enough time."

He also said he believes a solution will be found, even if some residents aren't satisfied.

If hours are restricted at the St. Patrick field, it would mean even more pressure on the city's limited number of soccer pitches, say Davies and Yan. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

"If it's a handful of people who might hear a little bit more noise than they're used to, but it means thousands of people get to play sports, I think its a fair trade-off and something maybe we can find a compromise on."

Yan said the board is trying to satisfy residents, but he opposes being held to a different standard than other sports fields.

'Soccer is not going anywhere'

"To be clear, we have not been told that we have contravened any noise bylaws," he said. "Sports fields across the city are open until 11, so why would you impose one set of restrictions on this field as opposed to other fields?

"Soccer is not going anywhere. It's going to grow, especially with the selection of Toronto as a World Cup city, and we're trying to meet that need."

 

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of the headline on this story said the school board had banned cheering and clapping at the soccer field. That has been changed to better reflect the school board’s directive that fans avoid excessive cheering.
    Dec 19, 2019 1:53 PM ET

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