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Football club can return to Langford for practices after new field found

Arrangements have been made for the team to practice at Spencer Middle School after complaints pushed them from Belmont Secondary.
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The West Shore Warriors football team can once again practise in Langford after noise complaints forced it to Saanich. COURTESY MELANIE DHILLON

The West Shore Warriors football club is returning to Langford for its evening practice sessions after the Sooke School District came up with an interim solution to the team’s complaint-driven move to Spectrum Community School in Saanich.

Arrangements have been made for the team to practice at Spencer Middle School.

The youth club, made up of nine- to 13-year-olds playing on two fall teams, made the move out of its home municipality after a number of neighbours raised objections to the noise and lights from its weekly 6-8 p.m. practices on an artificial-turf field at Belmont Secondary. There was also, “unfortunately,” an incident where one neighbour went to the field to berate the team organizers and parents in front of the players, said Sooke School Board chairman Ravi Parmar.

The club was asked to not use its lights, which are powered by generator, until a solution could be reached, Parmar said, and that led to the move to the grass-field complex at Spectrum.

That was a hard change for parents like Melanie Gilbert, whose 13-year-old son, Tyler, had to be driven to practice.

Parmar heard about the situation at that point and decided to get involved, and consulted school district staff and the club.

“They’re not going to have to go back to Saanich,” he said.

The Warriors will be able to set up their lights at the Spencer field because there are not as many homes nearby, Parmar said.

“In the longer term, we’re going to hope to get them back at Belmont or at the all-weather playing field at Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School when that school opens in a couple of months.”

Supply-chain issues have delayed the opening of the Centre Mountain Lellum facility.

Parmar said he suggested the Spencer field, which is grass, because it has just been replaced.

“It’s completely levelled, brand-new grass and we fixed a lot of the drainage issues which were there before.”

Gilbert praised Parmar’s efforts on behalf of the club. “He’s definitely worked with us and it’s been a great outcome, for sure.”

The fact that the club doesn’t have to travel to Saanich to practice “is definitely going to make people very happy,” she said.

She said hers is a football family, with older son, Dylan, a player on Belmont’s school team.

Tyler started an online petition after the team was initially asked to move from Belmont and gathered more than 2,200 signatures, Gilbert said.

“We definitely had the community support behind us,” she said.

Greater Victoria Minor Football Association president Lucy Hansen said it also happens that about half the club members are students at Spencer.

“It’s a great win for these kids,” she said.

Parmar said the situation with the field has made it clear that there is a lack of field space on the West Shore. Brian Coey, field co-ordinator for the Greater Victoria Minor Football Association, said the sport is facing some serious challenges around Greater Victoria.

He said securing a field with tower lights — a necessity for the outdoor fall and spring seasons — has been impossible.

Last spring, the league rented generator-powered lights for a Saanich team’s twice-per-week, two-hour practice sessions, Coey said. Those rentals cost about $10,000 per season and led to increased player fees, which are currently about $600 per year, per child.

“There’s not enough playing fields for youth sports on Vancouver Island, period,” Coey said. “I’ve gone all over the city trying to find fields, and there are none that we can use with permanent lights on them.”

jbell@timescolonist.com

ngrossman@timescolonist.com

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