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City pivots from new artificial turf fields to redo Chapples stadium pitch

Lack of guaranteed federal funding, high costs and two new high school artificial turf fields changed city's plans.
The Thunder Bay Chill used to play their home matches at Chapples Park but ongoing drainage issues forced the club's relocation to Fort William Stadium. (Matt Vis,

THUNDER BAY – Plans to add two new artificial turf soccer fields at Chapples Park are being substituted to rebuild the grass pitch for the Tbaytel Field at Chapples Park stadium venue.

City administration had initially planned in 2017 to construct a pair of outdoor turf fields at the north end of Chapples Park where baseball fields are currently situated but that project was delayed by no federal funding envelope being available and higher than anticipated cost estimates.

Cory Halvorsen, the city’s parks manager, told council on Monday night that the continued lack of certainty of whether the project would fit funding criteria as well as the addition of two new artificial turf surfaces at St. Ignatius and St. Patrick high schools had lessened the demand to go forward.

Instead, administration is targeting to upgrade its current highest priority renewal, which is the former home of the Thunder Bay Chill. The Premier Development League club had played its home matches out of the Chapples Park stadium for nearly a decade before recurring drainage issues forced its relocation to Fort William Stadium.

“Right now we’re working with the engineering division to assess the site drainage and come up with preliminary design for the field and the site,” Halvorsen said in an interview following the meeting.

“We’re aware that is the root issue on that site, is when it rains and there’s a lot of water you basically can’t use it. That’s fundamental to the design and the rest is to integrate it with the existing features and bring it up to that premier level.”

The field project had originally been included in the 2017 budget, with a $1.25 million capital debenture for “sports field renewal” that must be spent by August 2019.

Halvorsen said meeting that timeline was a factor in going ahead with the stadium field rather than waiting for clarity on federal funding eligibility.

City engineering director Kayla Dixon said the city would prefer to have an agreement in hand before banking on getting money and added there are possibilities for additional field work.

“There certainly is a need in the soccer community for renewal of these fields and if funding comes forward we can bring that opportunity to council,” Dixon said. “There are additional fields that still need renewal and replacement throughout the community.”

Coun. Paul Pugh saw redoing an existing field and not adding new ones as a loss.

“This is hugely disappointing for the soccer community and many others,” Pugh said. “I realize this is not what administration wanted to bring forward.”