Ongoing issues between the City of Abbotsford and the school district left the Valley Attack field lacrosse group scrambling for a new home field with just months until their season started.
And while that situation was resolved and the association has found a temporary new home, it further illustrates some of the potential future issues that sports user groups may have in the coming years when it comes to obtaining field time in Abbotsford.
The Abbotsford Senior Secondary artificial turf field had been Valley Attack’s home since it was created in 2014, primarily because it was the only turf field in Abbotsford with the proper lacrosse line markings. It’s also one of the few fields in the Fraser Valley where women’s lacrosse line markings are permanently on the field.
However, the board of education’s decision on June 14 to restrict the field to school district use only changed all that. The board’s rationale is that they want to extend the remaining life of the field from a projected two years to five by the restrictions.
They likely arrived at that decision following disagreements between the school district and the City about Mouat’s Latham Field, which has been deemed unsafe now for several years.
During negotiations on the repair of that field, the City offered to split the potential cost 50/50 of a new field with the school district. However the school district was only able to offer $500,000 and thus were unable to commit to a true 50/50 split. As a result, an agreement to jointly fund the new field at Mouat could not be met.
The original investment for Latham Field was $1.925 million in 2007. The original investment for the Abbotsford Senior Secondary artificial turf field was $2.5 million in 2013.
The board’s June 14 decision meant that field lacrosse would have to find a new home and fast, as training begins in August and the season runs from September to February.
Valley Lacrosse president Karen Cameron said she is disappointed by what occurred and also is shocked that there is no plan moving forward between the City and the school district.
“There was no contingency plan put in place at the end of the 10 years when these fields need to be replaced,” she said. “So now there is wear and tear and they need to start planning for a replacement, which is close to $1 million. And the City just says ‘not ours, we gave it to you, have a nice day’ and the school is like ‘we can’t afford $1 million.’”
She said the biggest frustration was the lack of communication from both sides.
“We had absolutely no warning this was going to happen,” she said, noting that she found out when everyone else did after the board meeting. “Our planning for the season was already underway based on the location, practice times and game times that we’ve had for the last number of years. And then out of nowhere we were just told we don’t have a field anymore.”
She said further headaches continued when dealing with the City, who attempted to help out but didn’t appear to understand the problem.
“They gave us some other fields but they weren’t marked for lacrosse at that time,” she said. “They didn’t realize that because they didn’t really talk to us. I’m pretty sure they weren’t aware that this was our only field and it was taken from us.”
Cameron and her association then decided to finalize a partnership with Mission Minor Lacrosse that had been in the works for several months. The two associations will share field time and combine teams made up of players from both cities. Mission does have one field available for lacrosse.
The City of Abbotsford is also accommodating Valley Lacrosse and will be adding line markings at one of the field at MRC. However, players may not have the same practice and game times they have been used to, and some may have to travel to Mission due to the new arrangement.
Cameron said she’s thankful that the City will be adding line markings, but questioned the long-term recreational planning for not just lacrosse but other sports groups in Abbotsford.
“The district was given this amazing gift [turf field] but why was there zero long-term planning done,” she said. “They should have been maintaining it every year and putting aside money for when it runs out in 10 to 15 years. We’re very disappointed with the mismanagement of this resource. It’s a beautiful field, but it was mismanaged. Just to have no plan in place, I fail to understand how this could have happened.”
She pointed out that the community uses the Abbotsford Secondary field more than the school and all of those groups will be fighting for what field space is now left in Abbotsford. She and past president David Goulet also stated that Latham Field was also marked for lacrosse and they both believed that field could have been used more effectively for all groups.
Cameron said specifically with lacrosse that it is unfortunate to see other nearby communities like Langley and Chilliwack provide the sport with more. She said another lacrosse field would do wonders for the sport locally.
MML president Jason Hughlett said he’s disappointed by what occurred in Abbotsford and also lamented the loss of the Abbotsford Secondary field. He said his association has about 150 players and has about two or three times more players than Abbotsford, but the new partnership will hopefully open some doors.
The City of Abbotsford stated that they will continue working with Valley Attack to ensure things go smoothly.
“In an effort to better accommodate the needs of Valley Attack Lacrosse at the Matsqui Recreation Centre, City staff met with the group and as a result the City is adding lacrosse lines to one of the fields at MRC to enable lacrosse to be played there,” said Aletta Vanderhyden, the City’s communications manager. “We will continue to work with Valley Attack Lacrosse to see how we can support their members moving forward and are awaiting additional information from them in order to do so.”
Vanderhyden also said the City is open to re-opening discussions with the school district about the fields.
“The City remains open to negotiations with the School District regarding the field at Abbotsford Senior Secondary and will continue to work with different user groups to address their need whenever possible,” she said.