Student athletes at North Van’s Ecole Argyle Secondary are finally enjoying the green, green (artificial) grass of home.
After five long years without a school field to practice and hold games on, Argyle’s boys’ soccer squads and senior boys football team are taking to the new artificial turf field this week in front of a local crowd.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) the Pipers will hit the pitch for the first time in a senior boys soccer game kicking off at 3:45 p.m. against their North Van rivals from Ecole Handsworth Secondary. Then on Friday the Pipers will face the West Van Highlanders in a senior boys football game starting at 3:45 p.m.
In the case of the soccer team, this week marks the first time a home game will be played at Argyle in 30 years, said soccer coach and Argyle teacher Darren Rath. That’s because the previous grass field at the old Argyle wasn’t in good enough condition to be used for games, said Rath, “so we’ve always played at community fields.”
“It’s always nice to be able to play at your school,” he added.
Bill Stanger, one of the football coaches at Argyle, said playing at home will give the teams a boost. “For years we’ve practiced somewhere else besides the school. They’ve played almost in anonymity,” he said. “No one could get there to watch us.”
For the past several years, players have mostly used the field at Kirkstone Park, a kilometre away.
“There’s no change facilities there,” he said, and the field is smaller, making it more difficult for players to figure out what a game might feel like on a regular field.
Practicing on the new turf last week for the first time was “fantastic,” he said.
New field will be used by soccer, rugby, field hockey and football teams
The new field is lined for soccer (white lines), rugby (yellow lines), field hockey (blue lines), and football (orange lines) and has uprights for football and rugby, soccer nets, and field hockey nets. There is also a smaller turf practice field just below the upper parking lot which Argyle classes and sports teams have been using since it opened last month.
On Oct. 13 – the first day the regular field opened for use – some students set their alarms early to be the first ones on the turf, said Argyle principal Kim Jonat.
“There was nothing better than walking up to the new field on opening day and seeing a small group of students playing a pickup game of soccer as the sun was rising,” she said.
Since then, the field has seen constant use from PE classes, sports team practices and community groups who are able to book the field after school hours and on weekends.
Argyle has been without a field for five years
The opening of the artificial turf field at the high school has been long-awaited. Because the new Argyle school – which opened in January of 2021 – was built on the footprint of the old school field, athletes at Argyle were necessarily without an outside area to practice on during the years the new school was under construction.
While many young athletes had hoped work on the new Argyle field would get underway as a high priority soon after the old school was demolished, further delays pushed construction further down the road.
The budget for the new school did not include funds for an artificial turf field, so the District of North Vancouver stepped in to fund the field as a joint-use facility. The field was originally budgeted for $3.5 million in 2019, which ballooned to a final budget of $5.3 million this year, according to the District of North Vancouver. Actual costs of the field are yet to be finalized.
Now that the field is ready, local sports groups can book it through the North Vancouver Recreation Commission after 5:30 p.m. on school days and all day on weekends.
During the week, youth community sports organizations are given priority for the field and amenities until 8 p.m., once Argyle sports activities are done at 5:30 p.m. The field is also available for local adult sports organizations till 11 p.m.