Like many youth sports organizations, the Vancouver United Soccer Alliance is feeling the squeeze.
With field space at a premium, and prices to rent school district facilities on the rise, finding places to play games and for teams to practice is a growing challenge. Relief, the club hopes, will come in the form of three lighted artificial turf fields at the Harmony Sports Complex in east Vancouver.
VUSA, which serves approximately 1,500 players ages 5-18, hopes to raise $1.5 million in phases over 10 months to complete the project by September of 2012.
“Facilities matter,” said Brad Dow, the VUSA’s field improvement chairman.
The project would not add more fields to the Harmony complex, located at Northeast 18th Street and 192nd Avenue. It would replace three existing fields — Field 7, Field 8, and Field 9 — on the southern edge of the complex with three contiguous artificial surface fields.
The project is expected to cost between $1.55 million and $1.9 million, Dow said. The breakdown: $950,000 for artificial turf to cover three fields; $500,000 to light those fields; up to $500,000 for grading and other preparation work.
The VUSA has committed $150,000 from its fields budget to the project, and has an estimated $200,000 in grant money. There is also a $300,000 low-interest loan available from Washington Youth Soccer.
Their fundraising goals: $500,000 by the end of this year, an additional $500,000 by May first, and a final $500,000 by Sept. 1. The VUSA hopes construction to begin in May and be completed by Sept. 1.
Dow said if the $500,000 goals aren’t met by the target dates of Jan. 1 and May 1, construction will be delayed.
The field squeeze isn’t unique to VUSA. Nor are plans to build a lighted field that can be used year-round.
The Salmon Creek Soccer Club plans to build a lighted artificial surface field at H.B. Fuller Park.
If funds can be raised for that project — estimated to cost $750,000 to $800,000 — that field could be ready for use sometime in 2012, according to Salmon Creek Soccer Club president Jeff Thomas. Thomas, who recently became president of the club, said the Salmon Creek club has not yet launched a fundraising campaign for to build its lighted field.
Salmon Creek Soccer Club and its advanced competition club F.C. Salmon Creek serve about 800 players.
Camas-Washougal Soccer Club, the area’s largest club at about 1,700 players including its advanced competition wing, has no plans right now to build its own lighted artificial turf field, according to Gary Martschinske, the club’s operations manager. CWSC rents artificial turf fields at Camas School District’s Doc Harris Stadium and Cardon Field, and at Washougal’s Fishback Stadium.
Ron Witherup, the Washington Youth Soccer member services director for southwest Washington, said the lack of fields is the complaint he hears most often, and from every club in the region. He said that school districts, crunched for money, have raised rental rates for artificial turf facilities and have restricted access to grass fields to contain their own maintenance costs.
Teams that play their state cup or statewide leagues during the winter and spring often practice in school gyms, Witherup said.
Dow said that VUSA will rent its lighted fields to other clubs when its teams aren’t using it. Dow also predicted the facility will allow VUSA to attract big tournaments to Harmony, which would cut down on travel for some of its teams.
Dow said VUSA has not signed any contracts with artificial turf companies.
The lifetime for the current generation of fake grass fields is eight to 10 years. By saving money currently used for rent, the club could save funds each year to be used for replacing the surface in a decade, Dow said.
VUSA directors officially launched the fundraising effort within the club last month. In Dow’s letter to the VUSA membership soliciting donations for the project, he closes with this question: “Isn’t it about time we pulled our children out of the mud ... ?”
Did you know?
• Vancouver United Soccer Alliance has begun a campaign to raise $1.5 million for three lighted artificial turf fields at Harmony Sports Complex in east Vancouver.
• VUSA formed in 2008 through a merger of the Orchards, Evergreen and Central Vancouver clubs. In 2010, it added the Columbia Timbers advanced competition club.
• Salmon Creek Soccer Club hopes to build one lighted artificial turf field at H.B. Fuller Park — perhaps as soon as 2012.