THUNDER BAY – Indoor soccer has a new temporary home.
The Thunder Bay Chill have reached an agreement with the management group that runs the Thunder Bay Tournament Centre to lease Rink 2 for two years.
Cushioned turf already covers most of the former ice surface and Chill president Tony Colistro says the goal is to be up and running as early as this week.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the fate of indoor soccer in the city, when the opportunity arose, Colistro said he leapt at the offer.
“We knew we were looking for a place to play. The last four years has been quite challening for our club. We've been using school gyms and the Lakehead University Hangar and trying to run moderated programs, which caused a lot of challenges because obviously there was not enough room to accommodate all of our athletes,” Colistro said.
The goal is to use the Tournament Centre, which was not planning to open the second ice pad this winter because of COVID-19, for two years and hopefully move into the proposed $33-million indoor turf facility the city has agreed to build should it be ready for use at that time.
Colistro said it's great to have a place to call home. The organization had its own indoor facility on the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition grounds, then moved into the Sports Dome when it stopped being a strictly golf-only facility.
However, when the bubble deflated in late 2015, indoor soccer was forced into a nomadic life. There was the dome at Confederation College, but it collapsed and was scheduled for removal at any rate. A site on Maureen Street had been chosen, but city officials would not give the green light due to the condition of the building.
Colistro said without the Tournament Centre location, which they've dubbed Plex 2, it was going to be tough to offer programming to his 2,000 or so participants.
“This will give not only our club, the Thunder Bay Chill, but the other three clubs under Soccer Northwest umbrella, with the men's and the women's (leagues) and the Lakehead Express, an opportunity to have a little bit more time to play,” Colistro said.
“It won't accommodate all of us, but it's definitely a win-win in the present times right now.”
Cliff Friesen, who heads the management group that runs the Tournament Centre, said it was a great way to meet a need in the community for indoor soccer and make use of a facility that likely was going to sit vacant for at least the current hockey season.
“This year, as it relates to COVID-19, you're not going to see the hockey tournaments that we've seen other years and that's what we've thrived upon,” Friesen said. “It would have meant, for us, probably no ice in here period. This was a really good positive opportunity for both the Chill, the soccer community and ourselves.”
A dual-bubble indoor site is planned for a property off Golf Links Road, and site clearing has begun, but progress appears to have stalled.
Program registration information can be located on the Thunder Bay Chill website.