Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools superintendent John Blain, a former CFL player, and NDSS football coach Nate Stevenson get ready to run a play on the new artificial turf field at NDSS. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

Artificial turf field officially dedicated in Nanaimo

City and school district dedicate $3.6-million NDSS Community Field

Nanaimo’s new artificial turf field is “drop-dead gorgeous” and world-class, according to city councillor Bill Bestwick, who believes it puts Nanaimo in the equation for attracting professional sport camps.

School board and city officials, who partnered to build the $3.6-million facility, celebrated the official dedication of NDSS Community Field on Wednesday, with speeches, cake and football-shaped cookies.

The sod was turned last July for the joint project at Nanaimo District Secondary School and in the fall, the John Barsby Bulldogs broke it in with a victory against the Langley Saints.

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It’s a space for school and community athletes, and part of the Larry McNabb Sports Zone that also offers the aquatic centre, Serauxmen Stadium, Serauxmen Sports Fields and ice surfaces along Third Street. The field, wide enough for rugby and Canadian football, is also considered to be the largest sports field in Nanaimo, and offers features like lights and covered players’ benches. The city and school district are also working on getting permanent bleachers.

School board vice-chairwoman Stephanie Higginson said, in a speech, the city’s purchase of Rotary Bowl and Serauxmen Stadium and the joint development of the field allows both parties to focus resources in a way that benefits the entire community.

“Well-maintained and accessible community recreation facilities result in a healthier and more connected community. Having the financial capacity to be able to not only maintain but also improve our facilities means that our students and the city will have access to this world-class facility,” she said. “On behalf of the board, we are excited for this partnership, we look forward to many more like this to build strong and vibrant communities across our entire school district.”

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Bestwick said the field is needed because Nanaimo doesn’t have capacity for certain high-level sports at Merle Logan artificial turf fields, which also don’t check certain criteria to host regional or national events.

“So the B.C. Lions would come and train here, as an example, or the female Whitecaps would come and have a game here, a friendly, an exhibition, or the Whitecaps, but they would never do that at Caledonia or Merle Logan, but they will certainly entertain that here once the ancillary facilities are built out to support it,” he said, referring to bleachers, change rooms and concessions. “You see that the majority of the professional sports teams want to travel around the province and go to different cities and so this hopefully will put us in that equation that we haven’t been in for a long time.’

Richard Harding, city director of parks, recreation and environment, calls artificial turf fields “incredible work horses.” Where natural fields may get up to 400 hours of use annually, the Merle Logan fields each see about 2,000 and he expects NDSS Community Field to get 3,000 between use by the school, sports academies and the community. It’s always open and rarely closed for rain, he said.

“The city probably needs one more of these,” he said.



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