According to Whistler Youth Soccer Club president P.J. O'Heany, the best time to build an additional soccer field was yesterday.
Though, to borrow from an old proverb, the second-best time would be now — that's not entirely feasible so the next best option is to build it as soon as possible.
In a presentation to the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) council at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Dec. 1, the municipality's manager of resort parks planning Martin Pardoe explained the RMOW-funded project is on track for construction in 2018.
There is a fairly lengthy process ahead for all involved stakeholders, though, as several decisions are still in the offing.
"We would love to have it built yesterday. We realize that there are certain realities and certain processes you have to go through. But the faster the better," O'Heany said.
The club said it's already at a deficit trying to balance playing time and keeping the fields in good shape by avoiding overuse, something Pardoe said the RMOW is well aware of.
"There's a lot of growth in local soccer, the hours are restricted due to the short season and a lack of illumination," he said during the meeting. "The demand exceeds the field's natural ability to regenerate and grow. There's some negative feedback we've received from visiting teams."
The first decision is whether the project will be an indoor or an outdoor one. The indoor project would be a half-sized field built alongside courts to allow for other sports like volleyball, basketball and badminton to be held in the facility, while the outdoor field would be a full-sized artificial turf field.
The four indoor options being considered range from an air-supported bubble, estimated to have a capital cost of $5.9 million, to two different rigid-frame structures, to a pre-engineered steel structure, with a capital cost of $11.1 million. However, the structures with greater capital costs are cheaper to operate, which Pardoe said the RMOW is taking into consideration.
O'Heany favours the outdoor artificial turf option, which would face significantly lower capital and operating costs. The field, including lights, would cost about $3.1 million and the operating costs would be roughly five times less than the lowest-cost indoor option.
"What benefits the club first is an artificial outdoor turf, full-sized, because then we can play full games on it as well as smaller games," he said. "The indoor pitch has the 12-months-a-year option, but it's only a half-pitch."
During the meeting, Coun. Sue Maxwell wondered about the future of soccer in the resort, noting many of the baseball fields built during that sport's boom period seem to be sitting empty, but Pardoe explained an indoor structure would support a wide variety of sports should interest in soccer wane. O'Heany stressed there are more than enough young people for the sport to thrive.
Pardoe analyzed four potential sites during the meeting, noting each had their pros and cons. Two of the sites, Bayly Park and Spruce Grove Park, are RMOW property while the other two, Myrtle Philip Community School and Whistler Secondary School, are School District 48 property. There are challenges associated with each site, and Pardoe explained one of the next steps is determining the development costs associated with each.
"Each site has its own set of challenges, opportunities and site-development costs," he said during the meeting. "We did choose those four based upon available areas, the impacts to adjacent uses or collaboration with adjacent uses."
Some issues have already been identified. For example, building at Spruce Grove Park would force the Waldorf School to find a new site, while any field at Myrtle Philip Community School would be built over an existing one and would not give the club an additional field per se.