While the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed fundraising plans, the Airdrie Field Turf Project is still rolling along, according to those behind the initiative.
Chris Glass, the president of the Airdrie Field Turf Project Society (AFTPS), said the non-profit group will return to Airdrie City council on June 7 to present the findings of a feasibility study from last year. The report looked into the possibility of converting the natural-grass sports field at Ed Eggerer Athletic Park into an artificial-turf field.
“Just because we’ve been quiet doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy,” said Glass, who is also a football coach for the George McDougall Mustangs and Airdrie Minor Football. “During COVID, it slowed everything down considerably, but what we were able to do was complete our feasibility study. We paid almost $40,000, and through the City’s procurement process, we had a company come in and do a site survey to figure out whether Genesis Place would be the most feasible place to have it.
“We have that survey back, and on June 7, we’ll be presenting our case to City council once again for approval to move forward.”
AFTPS was formed in 2019 by a group of Airdrie football coaches, with the aim of fundraising to bring the city’s first artificial-turf sports field to fruition. Though the project is football-centric, Glass said other local sports groups would also be able to benefit from an artificial turf surface in Airdrie, including soccer, rugby, field hockey and field lacrosse programs.
Glass argued that playing sports on an artificial-turf surface rather than natural grass has myriad benefits, including improved player safety, increased usage potential and additional rental revenue for the City, as the field would be able to be used more often and for more months of the year compared to a grass surface.
The city's high number of young athletes is another motivation, he added.
“The biggest reason why it’s worth pursuing is that nearly 30 per cent of our residents are under the age of 19,” Glass said. “We need to find places for them to do things safely – get outdoors, be athletic and move around.”
An artificial turf field is expected to cost a total of $2 million, according to figures on Airdriefieldturfproject.com. AFTPs hopes half of those funds will be sourced from Alberta government grants, along with $250,000 from the City of Airdrie, whose council previously endorsed the project in August 2019.
Due to pandemic-related restrictions, fundraising for the project has been on ice for more than a year. Since fundraising is not feasible right now, Glass said AFTPS has focused on completing behind-the-scenes work for the project instead, such as the feasibility study and user consultation.
“Once COVID is in the rear-view mirror, we’re looking forward to putting on one of our fundraisers again and getting our community back out to celebrate supporting our cause,” he said.
Other than fundraising proceeds, Glass added the society will focus on applying for grants to help pay for the field's construction.
“Once we get council’s approval and the City’s support, we can start applying for grants to find the money to go out and build this,” he said. “We’ll be looking into all different types of grants. There is a lot of infrastructure money right now to put people back to work and get people working in our community, and we want to take advantage of that.”
Once funding is secured, Glass said the installation of artificial turf could take as little as six months to complete, pending weather and other factors.
“A lot of the infrastructure grants out there are available if you have a shovel-ready program…so if we are successful with those grants, things could come together pretty quickly,” he said.
For more information on the project, visit Airdriefieldturfproject.com