Goal Canada reader Steven Schmidt has some ideas about improving the soccer scene for prairie participants, namely, by building soccer domes to allow for year-round play.
And now, we’re going to give you a little bit more on this with a prairie focus, thanks to Goal Canada reader Steven Schmidt.
Steven e-mailed this over to me last week, and after giving it a read, I offered to let him take over my weekly Goal column (it’s just for one week, don’t get excited).
As someone who lives on the prairies and sits on a board for a local soccer association in Saskatoon, Steven’s ideas are certainly worth a read.
The essence of Steven’s argument is that “soccer domes” should be erected in climatically challenged parts of this country so that soccer can be played year-round.
His plan relies on provincial and federal funding, in addition to potential corporate sponsorship. But I say if these bodies are happy to contribute to what is quickly becoming the elitist and unaffordable sport of hockey, surely they can spare a dime for us ball-kicking plebs.
Read and enjoy, and feel free to chip in with your feedback below.
As for my view? Bring on the soccer dome!
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An infrastructure development plan for the Prairie Provinces
By: Steven Schmidt
One of the greatest enemies to the sport of soccer in Canada, particularly within Saskatchewan and the Prairie Provinces, is the climate.
The long, cold winters mean that we can only play competitive outdoor soccer (as it is meant to be played) for six months of the year. However these six months are shortened greatly because of the summer holidays, which come with the unwritten rule that all organized activities halt for the sake of the family holiday season.
We witness this with the current Saskatchewan Premier Soccer League (PSL) program that sees youth and families opt out of playing in order to better enjoy their summer holidays. So we have our current situation where the fall months of September to November are set aside for High School and Elementary soccer, followed by “indoor soccer” from November to April, and club “outdoor” soccer can be played for May and June (weather permitting).
The PSL currently attempts to run from May to August but to little avail. What would greatly benefit the sport would be the ability to play “outdoor soccer” year round, allowing the PSL to run for any number of months during the school year.
Obviously, one solution to this problem is indoor facilities. The Saskatchewan cities of Moose Jaw and Saskatoon currently benefit from having the two nicest indoor facilities in the province. Saskatoon has reaped the greatest benefits as of late with the introduction of the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy, something that is only made possible because of the world class indoor facilities of the Sasktel Sports Centre.
Any soccer association across the province, the country, even the continent would love to have an indoor facility, particularly one like the Sasktel Sports Centre. But not many associations could afford such a facility, nor convince the populace that one is needed. As well, it is not in the opinion of this paper that every association needs a facility like those found in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon. Any association would benefit greatly from something much simpler and much cheaper.
Soccer associations need a more economically viable option to combat the Canadian climate and benefit the growth and development of the sport in Canada.
Such an economically viable option is available. At a much cheaper cost than building a steel structure, one could erect an air supported structure or "dome" overtop an artificial turf field. In fact it is possible from basic research that the cost would be less than $1.5 million for each such structure.
This price tag is however still fairly high for any average soccer association, but is attainable for a few. It is probably best to assume that in Saskatchewan the average individual soccer association could still only dream of one day having such a structure at their disposal. But what happens if multiple associations begin to ask for multiple structures? Once multiple associations join forces, and we resurrect the co-operative movements, and begin asking the same questions, opportunities begin to open up.
For instance, if one association asked a company that makes and erects air supported structures for a quote, they would receive the regular charge that is given for any quote for one structure. However, if there were six or more associations asking for six facilities, they have the potential to open up to bids from possible tenders. Much like a city does for a large infrastructure project, the price of an individual facility drops as companies attempt to receive such a lucrative contract.
There are other opportunities that open up as well. If the associations can solicit the support and backing of their respective municipal governments they can begin to get the attention of the provincial government.
It can be easy to see the benefits of such a facility in virtually any city in Saskatchewan. Such a facility does not only benefit the sport of soccer. Any sport that would normally use an outdoor grass field could make use of these facilities. Football, lacrosse, rugby, ultimate Frisbee -- even baseball would benefit.
Both adults and youth would be able to use these facilities year-round. These facilities do not serve to benefit only one niche but the whole community. These can be marketed to the municipal governments as a great benefit, especially with the constant rising populations of our urban centres.
Current recreational facilities are being pushed to their limits with the demand from multiple sports thus creating a want, and a need, for more recreational facilities. Such a facility would help to ease the burden on the current facilities in Saskatchewan cities.
With the backing of municipal governments, this infrastructure project can begin to ask for funding from the provincial government. Since this is an infrastructure project that will reap benefits for years to come in the area of youth sport, and the fight against child and youth obesity, it is in the opinion of this paper that it would not be hard to receive financial support from both municipal and provincial governments.
A third opportunity that arises from a large scale infrastructure plan that crosses the entirety of the province is the ability to bring aboard corporate sponsors. Major corporations would be able to attach their name to a historic infrastructure building project that would benefit the province of Saskatchewan for decades. One could receive support from both local and large scale companies.
Now if such a large scale undertaking began to take hold in one province, you could begin to look outward to other provinces as well since Saskatchewan is not the only place hampered by the climate. Manitoba, Northern Ontario, Alberta, and particularly the Territories, could also benefit greatly from such a large infrastructure undertaking.
If something like this could take hold in one province then these other provinces could attempt the same, and with so many provinces and territories wanting the same thing, you'd begin to draw the attention of the federal government, larger corporate sponsors, and even attempt to receive funding from mother FIFA herself.
So how does such a massive facility upgrade benefit soccer? The opportunities could be endless. One would be in image. Soccer has long been a recreational sport; an offseason option for hockey players. With such a large movement it would be sure to get the attention of the media. As well, if a soccer dome could be placed in each city, suddenly there would be a face to this massive sport. It would move from the background, a common site in any given park, to the foreground. These centres would serve the same function as any hockey rink; it would give identity and a home to an already popular but homeless sport.
Such a movement would bring an underlying support and message to the CSA’s latest move toward change. Currently change within the sport from the top has been in the form of regulations and coaching theories.
Something like this would be much more visible, much more obvious and adamant. It would be making a statement, and would be a palpable way to show that the CSA is committed to the improvement of the sport from the ground up, through every level, and for the small 5,000-person community all the way to the million-plus metropolises of Calgary and Winnipeg. It would tell the people of the Prairie Provinces that they are considered just as important as the soccer hubs of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
A movement like this would only serve to strengthen belief and trust in the CSA. A movement like this would be visible to coaches, administrators, players, parents, critics, bystanders and even naysayers.
One idea is that with a large scale indoor facility building project complete, a youth league system and structure could be created within a province and across the country. The SSA would be able to hold a much stronger league with multiple cities partaking in it during the winter and spring months.
Leagues at the U14 level would have numerous teams. A pyramid system begins to take place with this level feeding a league with fewer teams at the U16 level while the U18 level would have a limited number of teams. This allows for players to begin playing against opponents at higher levels and competition. Top talents within a province would now be “showcased” for provincial and national squads, as well as our universities and five professional teams. If we could develop a standard league structure like this we could begin to feed the U23 league that the CSA has recently talked about running. As said before, with so many facilities popping up the opportunities would be endless.
All of these opportunities allow an individual association to receive a coveted indoor soccer facility at what has the potential to be at for an affordable price, if provincial and federal funding is secured. However this is only possible if we have a single desk for multiple associations. It would take an entire Provincial soccer community to get behind this and make it happen, but it certainly is not impossible.
It will take hard work and determination but if we truly want to see the beautiful game grow and develop to the next level here in Canada, then we, the administrators, need to step up our game and achieve new heights.
Steven Schmidt grew up playing soccer in rural Saskatchewan. He now coaches U12 boys and sits on the board for a local soccer association in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.