By Dianne Cornish, REVIEW STAFF
The U12 boys Flamborough Flames soccer team is disappointed, the executive of the Flamborough Soccer Club is disheartened and Ward 15 councillor Judi Partridge says “it’s a shame,” but poor conditions on some of the soccer fields at Joe Sams Park have caused the South Region Soccer League (SRSL) to pull their cup finals from Waterdown and hold them in Caledon instead.
The finals, originally scheduled to be held at the Centre Road park this Sunday, would have attracted between 1,200 and 2,000 visitors to Flamborough, including soccer players, parents, coaches and guests, estimated René Juraschka, president of the Flamborough Soccer Club. “In our opinion, it’s a big loss for the community,” he said, not only because the local team will lose home field advantage, but because businesses, such as restaurants, gas stations and hotels in and around Waterdown, will lose the potential revenue that the players and visitors would have brought to the area, the club president explained.
Pino Jazbec, president of the Mississauga-based SRSL, said he had no choice but to pull the tourney after referees, who saw the condition of the Flamborough pitches during semi-final games in mid-August, told him some of the fields were unsafe for play. The uneven ground, caused by bare spots surrounded by clumps of grass, was deemed unsafe because it could potentially cause players to twist their ankles or perhaps incur an even more serious injury.
“We decided at an executive meeting that for the kids to play the finals, they deserve better than that,” Jazbec said.
The Flamborough club was informed of the league’s decision by email within days of the semi-finals held at Joe Sams. Juraschka said poor field conditions in Flamborough also led to some semi-final games being moved to another venue this season.
The club president insists the problem stems largely from the poor condition of the two newest fields built by the City of Hamilton about three years ago.
An inadequate irrigation system at the park, coupled with six to eight weeks of drought this summer, has worsened conditions, making the new fields unsuitable for play, he explained. “There’s no even playing surface (on the fields). It’s equivalent to having a bunch of potholes.”
Juraschka said the irrigation system uses a pond reservoir fed by a well and doesn’t have enough water to irrigate all eight pitches at the park. Sprinklers are used to water only two of the six original large pitches and the two ball diamonds at Joe Sams, he said.
Councillor Partridge disputed his comments, telling the Review Tuesday that six of the eight pitches are watered. “Joe Sams is a beautiful state-of-the-art facility,” she said, noting that the last phase of its development includes adding a new well to provide water for all its fields. However, the process of getting a permit to take water (PTTW) from the Ministry of the Environment is complicated because the park is in the greenbelt and also has wetlands and conservation hazard lands. The City of Hamilton has been working towards installing a full irrigation system for more than a year and recently completed pumping tests on the site as a condition of getting a PTTW.
“Staff has been meeting with René on this since early 2011,” Partridge said, adding that the SRSL’s decision to pull the tourney is regrettable but understandable given their safety concerns. She expressed disappointment that the poor field conditions were brought to the media’s attention, saying that the issue has “more to do with the soccer league that made the decision” than with the Joe Sams fields.
“Because of (the poor condition of) two fields, they (Flamborough Soccer Club members) are painting a picture and being a bit disingenuous,” she charged.
But Juraschka said the tourney was lost because the league deems the two newest pitches unsafe and because they aren’t happy with the condition of two others. A minimum of six fields are needed to run the league’s cup finals, he said. “The City of Hamilton needs to step up if they don’t want to lose these types of events,” he stressed while expressing misgivings about whether Flamborough will be considered for future league finals.
“If the fields are brought up to condition, we’d have no problem coming back,” Jazbec said Tuesday. However, the two newest pitches will require reseeding to be brought up to par and that will be costly.
Partridge said city staff will review and assess the fields’ conditions to determine what is needed to restore them to good playing condition.
The cup finals would have drawn 80 teams to Flamborough from the Peel, Halton, Hamilton and Niagara areas, Jazbec said. “It brings a good boost to the host community.”
The U12 boys’ team is the only Flamborough team slated to compete in this Sunday’s final. Last month, a U18 girls’ team from Flamborough played off and lost a league championship game in Caledon.
Waterdown resident Jack Krist, father of one of boys on the U12 team, said the chance of securing home field advantage “meant a lot to our boys.” The team would not have had to travel, could rest longer and would have had a competitive advantage if the tourney was held at Joe Sams Park, he said.
“It is a shame, and quite frankly embarrassing, that the City could not figure out a way to keep the grass watered on our fields, especially our new fields, after all this time.”
Juraschka has invited Partridge and city staff to visit Joe Sams sometime this month to view the condition of the fields and discuss ways of better maintaining them.