A project to install artificial turf at a local football field has moved another step closer to reality.
The Airdrie Field Turf Project (AFTP) aims to convert the grass football field at Ed Eggerer Athletic Park to artificial turf, according to Chris Glass, president of the AFTP non-profit society. Glass said the project recently finished a feasibility study and has now entered the user consultation phase.
“It’s a big step to move to that stage,” said Glass, who is also the head coach of the George McDougall Mustangs football team and an assistant coach with the Airdrie Raiders bantam and midget football teams. “It’s one of the final things before we can go back to [Airdrie City] council to get final approval, so it’s pretty exciting.”
An artificial turf field is expected to cost a total of $2 million, according to airdriefieldturfproject.com. The non-profit society hopes half of those funds will be sourced from Alberta government grants, along with $250,000 from the City of Airdrie. City council endorsed the project last August.
In 2019, the society raised roughly $38,000, most of which came from a Dueling Pianos fundraiser held that March.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, those types of fundraisers haven’t been able to occur, Glass said. With that in mind, the non-profit society has shifted its focus toward securing government grant funding and offering the field's naming rights to potential corporate sponsors.
“Since COVID has hit, we can’t go out as easily and get the big corporate donations that we were looking for in the past,” Glass said. “What we’re looking for now is potentially [securing] some infrastructure money from the federal government and trying to bring some of the money to our city – putting Airdronians back to work building this field.”
The main benefit of a turf field, according to the AFTP website, is safety – artificial turf is safer to play on than natural grass. Studies from Idaho State University conducted between 2010 and 2014 indicated playing football on artificial turf instead of natural grass resulted in fewer serious knee injuries and concussions among players.
Furthermore, local sports groups would be able to play on the field more often, Glass said, as the surface would be usable for more than 30 weeks of the year.
Though AFTP is football-centric, Glass said the idea of converting the field to artificial turf has support from other sports clubs in Airdrie that would benefit from the facility. He added the non-profit society expects positive results from the user consultation phase, given the enthusiasm local sports groups expressed about the initiative last year.
“Now, it’s just making that process a little more formal and soliciting that feedback in an official fashion,” he said. “Once we’re there, the next step is to move to a funding model that works for everyone involved.”
An artificial turf field makes sense financially, he added, as it would generate a rental income potential of $130,000 per year for the City.
“This isn’t just a use of taxpayer dollars – it will actually come back to the City in money,” Glass said.
An artificial turf field would also improve Airdrie’s prospects of hosting provincial tournaments, such as the Alberta Bowl high school football championships, as well as large-scale events for other sports.
“There are a lot of sports that aren’t here in Airdrie because we don’t have the field to play on,” Glass said. “We don’t have a turf field for field hockey, and [field] lacrosse is just starting up in our city. To get that going big, this field will go a long way.”
According to the AFTP website, the field is expected to be ready by August 2021, pending approvals from the City of Airdrie and the securement of funding.
“It’s going to become a gathering place for Airdronians for a long time to come, and it’s going to be a real centrepiece for our city in the future,” Glass said.