THUNDER BAY – The former home pitch of the Thunder Bay Chill will be reconstructed this fall, though the field won’t be ready for use until 2020.
Thunder Bay city council on Monday night approved going forward with the Chapples Park stadium field renewal, voting to award the $1.1 million contract for the project.
The scope of the project starts with the stripping and removing the existing playing surface and soil. Below ground, it then includes the installation of a granular base and drainage system and a sand-based soil mixture with a high percolation rate, with an automated irrigation system connected to the Chapples Golf Course system.
The field itself would feature a new natural grass surface.
Cory Halvorsen, the city's manager of parks and open spaces, said the construction of the pitch is expected to be completed this fall, which would be followed by seeding of the field. The grass would be grown during the 2019 season, meaning the surface would not be playable until 2020.
The project is meant to solve longstanding issues that have hindered the site's playability, Halvorsen said.
“The project substantially improves the drainage in the area and it does include the associated amenities required for the field,” Halvorsen said.
City administration had originally been planning to build two new artificial turf fields in the Chapples Park area but their initial requests for proposals came back over budget.
After the installation of new artificial turf surfaces at St. Patrick and St. Ignatius high schools, the local soccer community instead pushed for a premier natural grass field.
The Thunder Bay Chill’s Premier Development League squad had played home games out of Chapples Park for nearly a decade but recurring drainage issues in 2013 and 2014 forced the team to split its schedule between Chapples and Fort William Stadium. To end the uncertainty of whether their field would be playable, the team has made Fort William Stadium its home base since 2015.
Coun. Paul Pugh, a noted soccer fan who is a regular attendee at Chill matches, was in favour of the sport getting support from city council.
“It’s been one of my frustrations that the largest participation sport in Thunder Bay, in Canada or in the world has so been so woefully provided for in Thunder Bay so I look forward to this going forward,” Pugh said.
Halvorsen said city administration has consulted with the sport’s stakeholders, who are in favour of how the project will be completed and did not express opposition to the timelines.