City council has ended its joint use agreement with the school district for the turf field at W. J. Mouat Secondary. (File photo: W. J. Mouat Hawks)

City council has ended its joint use agreement with the school district for the turf field at W. J. Mouat Secondary. (File photo: W. J. Mouat Hawks)

UPDATE: City ends agreement with Abbotsford school district over Mouat Secondary’s turf field

Staff report to council says field needs immediate replacement at a cost of $1 million

Abbotsford council has voted to end its joint use agreement (JUA) with the school district in relation to the artificial turf field at W. J. Mouat Secondary.

A staff report recommended that the agreement not be renewed when it expires in May, saying the field needs to be replaced at a cost of $1 million and is not well-used.

“Given the low utilization, and the ability to accommodate sports users on other fields, entering into a new JUA with the school district and replacing the artificial field does not seem like a good investment for the city at this time,” the report stated.

Brad Domaas, the city’s director of parks and facilities, told council at its executive meeting on Monday (Jan. 10) that the city was unable to reach an agreement with the school district for a “fair and reasonable cost-sharing structure.”

A spokesperson for the school district said the future of the Mouat field is currently “under deliberation.”

The Mouat field is one of five under which the city had a JUA with the school district. Two of the others are located at Howe Middle School and one each are at Matsqui Recreation Centre and Abbotsford Senior Secondary.

The Mouat field is the first of the five that was constructed – in 2007, when it was upgraded from grass – and, under the JUA, the replacement is at the city’s sole discretion.

RELATED: Plan for new turf fields moves forward

The city initially invested $2 million from development cost charges to construct the field, and entered into a 10-year JUA in 2007, with a five-year extension.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic lessened sport participation, the Mouat field hosted mainly soccer and field hockey groups.

The field has been closed since the end of September because of safety issues, and sports teams have been assigned to other locations.

The staff report states that the W. J. Mouat field is the least used of the turf fields, with a utilization rate of 36 per cent during prime hours and 6.4 per cent during non-prime, based on 2019 data.

In comparison, the four other fields have utilization rates ranging from 52 to 67 per cent during prime time and 9.5 to 15 per cent during non-prime hours, the report indicates.

The report says a 2020 assessment noted that the Mouat field’s shock pad is “substandard and not meeting drainage specifications.”

RELATED: Sports groups enthusiastic about plan for new turf fields

“Normally a shock pad can be used for 2-3 cycles of turf, but this shock pad cannot be reused, resulting in a higher than normal replacement cost.”

The staff report says the assessment also concluded that all of the fields will need to be replaced by 2026, but Mouat is the only one requiring immediate attention.

Councillors who spoke at Monday’s meeting agreed that financing an upgraded field at Mouat Secondary is not in the city’s best interest.

“It’s not an easy decision to make, but I don’t think it’s an expense I can justify at this point,” said Ross Siemens.

Coun. Sandy Blue said Abbotsford is a growing city “with many needs” and she supports ending the JUA.

“I think it is really prudent to take this role, as challenging as it it,” she said.

A Sports Field Strategy planned by the city for 2023/24 will address the long-term direction for sports fields in Abbotsford.

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