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Airdrie City council votes to move forward with field turf project

The Airdrie Field Turf Project Society (AFTPS) is one step closer to bringing a state-of-the-art artificial turf field to Ed Eggerer Athletic Park, after council voted to move forward with the project on July 5.

The Airdrie Field Turf Project Society (AFTPS) is one step closer to bringing a state-of-the-art artificial turf field to Ed Eggerer Athletic Park, after Airdrie City council voted to move forward with the project on July 5.

Council unanimously voted to support the project and directed administration to work with the AFTPS to develop a business plan for the artificial turf field, taking into account the key findings of the RC Strategies Artificial Turf Field Feasibility Study. The completed plan is set to be brought forward to council for review and approval in the first quarter of 2022.

“I have no doubt that your group [AFTPS] can get this done and get the fundraising required,” said Coun. Ron Chapman after the presentation. “I look forward to this. I think we can get this done. I am quite excited about being able to watch some 'Friday Night Lights' games at whatever we happen to call the field.”

Chris Glass, the president of ATFPS and the head coach of George McDougall High School’s football team, said after the meeting he was elated with council's decision to support the project.

“It was always an 'if' until yesterday,” he said on July 6. “Now it is a matter of when. Now we need to go out and get the money.”

Glass said with Airdrie's football and minor sports community constantly growing, the addition of a turf field will be a great addition to the city. 

“It's not just about having the field, and having a place to play football on,” Glass said. “It fills our restaurants and our hotels.”

According to Glass, who referenced a stat by the Alberta Tourism Board, when a tournament-style event is hosted by a city and the field, each athlete brings in around $200 for the local community. 

“It has more than just football appeal,” he said. “If we start marketing Airdrie as a sports tourism hub, there is a lot we can do to stimulate the local economy.”

The AFTP first emerged in 2019. The project’s goal is to convert the existing natural grass surface at the football field on the north side of Genesis Place Recreation Centre to artificial field turf.

The reasoning behind the project is that artificial turf is safer to play on and would increase the number of playable hours per year for local football, soccer, rugby and field hockey teams.

On July 5, Glass led a presentation to City council with a current update on the project. The updated information came from a feasibility study, at a cost of $39,000, which came from AFTPS' community fundraising efforts.

According to Glass' presentation, the project has come in at a more expensive price tag than the initial $2 million estimate, with a current projected cost of of $4.4 million for the turf field.

“While some of the costs came in higher than we anticipated, we believe we are going to be able to lower some of these expected costs, and to raise the money we need to complete this project,” he said.

The price breakdown according to Glass, comes from $3.4 million needed for civil works costs and $950,000 in estimated artificial turf installation costs. While the AFTPS intends cover most of the project’s funding through grants and fundraisers, Glass said the society is calling on the City to contribute $910,000.

Glass touched on the possible economic benefits of the field, saying that hosting just 21 football games and 14 tournaments a year would potentially generate more than $548,000 toward the local economy, as participating players and their families would spend money at local restaurants, gas stations and other businesses.

“This doesn’t include any revenue that would come directly from renting out the field or anything like that,” he said.

The project has room to save some unnecessary costs, according to Glass. He said around $300,000 could be saved by lowering the contingency fee from 20 per cent to around the standard eight per cent.

Additionally, he said the society could save another $300,000 by not adding a shock pad to the turf field. The shock pad component is a middle layer of padding installed between the sub-base layer and the layer of artificial turf. He also said the shock pad isn’t a necessity, and the reasoning for that argument comes from a lack of consensus in the field turf community that it provides additional safety benefits.

“In fact, the last two major stadiums that were built in western Canada – Mosaic Stadium in Regina and Investors Group Field in Winnipeg – do not have shock pads,” Glass said.

Mayor Peter Brown praised Glass and his team’s work over the last two years.

“I know you, and I know the time you put in to make this happen,” Brown said. “You have great people on your board, and the fact that you have pulled this together with a business plan to make it work for everyone is really exceptional.”

Jordan Stricker,
Follow me on Twitter @Jay_Strickz

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