FIELD hockey will come to an end on the North Shore if the District of North Vancouver goes ahead with a plan to replace the turf at William Griffin Park, according to advocates who turned out to a council meeting Monday.
The aging, multi-purpose artificial field on West Queens Road is reaching the end of its life cycle, according to the district, so staff have hatched a plan to replace the hardened surface with six-centimetre artificial turf later this summer. The facility is due to be back up and running in the fall, they said.
The problem is that a surface of that type, although fine for soccer, will be incompatible with field hockey, according to Handsworth secondary senior girls field hockey coach Paul Winstanley.
"If we put in soccer-based turf we will no longer be competitive," he told council.
The nine-year coach, who led his team to a AAA provincial championship last year, explained that a seven-centimetre field hockey ball would not roll smoothly on thick artificial turf, a fact that would severely hamper play. A bouncing ball could also be a safety issue, he added.
"We need sufficient ball roll so that when a ball is passed it will actually reach the receiving player," he said.
The change would make things impossible for the 60 girls who practice on the field twice a week, said Winstanley.
"I'm counting on the district decision-makers to replace the Griffin turf field with a surface that continues to be usable for all the existing users," he said. "If the new field is not usable by field hockey, then it will not be possible to sustain the Handsworth high school program."
The upgrade is necessary, though, according to parks manager Richard Boulton, as the current turf has become so hard that it is unsafe. The vast majority of users won't be affected, he argued, as approximately 90 per cent of available time at William Griffin is booked by soccer - a fact that weighed heavily in the district's decision. The new field will continue to be accessible for football and field hockey, he added.
But parents of field hockey players who attended Monday's meeting remained unconvinced, saying the change would mean all 1,500 field hockey players in North Vancouver would lose their only game field.
"Over the past 10 years, our daughter has played soccer on literally dozens of different sports fields in North Van," said Mary Lindsay, who has coached both sports. "She has played field hockey on only one: Griffin turf field."
Lindsay played field hockey at Handsworth in the 1970s and now watches her daughter play for the school's junior team. If the new field is installed, Lindsay said field hockey players will be forced to travel to other municipalities to play their sport of choice.
"Select multi-sport turf for Griffin and let us continue to play field hockey on a home field in North Van," Lindsay implored council.
"If not, tell us: Where will our kids play?"
The plea was echoed by fellow resident Heather Barnett.
"I think I'm typical of a family on the North Shore where I have daughters playing soccer, and I have daughters playing field hockey, too."
The North Shore has been a hotbed of field hockey talent, with eight players from North Vancouver recently selected to take the turf for Canada's national women's team in a series of exhibition games against the United States.
District staff are planning to explore a new multi-sport artificial turf field at another facility in the future, said Boulton.
He did not provide specifics.