Hockey's home at last

AFTER years of stops, starts, fundraisers and former garbage dumps, field hockey will finally have its own artificial turf field at Ambleside Park this September.

Rutledge Field, originally slated to be completed before March 31, is now scheduled to open Saturday, Sept. 10 at 10: 30 a.m.

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Following the dedication ceremony the ball is scheduled to drop for Game 2 of a five-game men's field hockey exhibition series between Canada and Australia.

Patricia Macleod first picked up a stick and headed to the pitch in West Vancouver nearly forty years ago, back when it was called grass hockey.

"A lot of girls played hockey on the North Shore at that time and those people are now parents and they have their kids in West Van Field Hockey Club," she said.

Macleod, a hard-working midfielder on an adult team as well as president of the West Vancouver Field Hockey Facilities Society, has been one of many citizens working with the District of West Vancouver for the new field over the past seven years.

The field cost $4.7 million, with most of that money coming from the federal and provincial governments. The West Vancouver Field Hockey Club teamed up with the West Van Soccer Club to donate $940,000 for the project. The District of West Vancouver also contributed $760,000.

The price tag includes the turf, lighting, warm-up pads, and upgrades to the field house.

"It's been a long, long time coming," said Mary Lindsay, a volunteer with WVFHC.

"It's the largest field hockey club in North America, and we have not had a home field. So there's been this quest for a home field for decades."

The new turf should shorten commutes for the approximately 2,500 members of the WVFHC, as well as allowing sports fans on the North Shore to get their first taste of high-level field hockey.

"Most people don't really know what field hockey is like, they've only ever seen little kids play on grass," Macleod said. "This is a great opportunity to showcase what field hockey really is: it's a very fast game, you don't have to stop to do subs, there's no offsides."

While the game is quick, Macleod said getting a field has been an unbelievably long journey.

"When I started this project I was hoping (my children) would get to use the new field, but since I started seven years ago, they have now graduated and left home."

The field hockey club was close to having a field at Hugo Ray Park in 2009, but the plan was eventually nixed.

"They found that because it's built on a former garbage dump the settling patterns would not lend itself to being stable enough to install a turf field," Lindsay said.

Following the disappointment at Hugo Ray Park, the WVFHC turned its focus to the gravel field at Ambleside, and to fundraising.

"We worked in co-operation with the West Vancouver Community Foundation so that the gifts were then able to

be considered charitable contributions."

Field hockey teams raised money, volunteers solicited donations from friends and corporations, and the club raffled off trips to New Zealand in a bid to finally give the young players a field.

Besides the fundraising and volunteer efforts, Lindsay said co-operation with the West Vancouver Soccer Club and the district was critical in giving the players their pitch.

"It really speaks to the strength of the community/ government relations in the community of West Vancouver," Lindsay said.

The field is named for field hockey great Ross Rutledge, a top goal-scorer who competed for Canada at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Besides playing professional field hockey in Australia, Rutledge was also a North Shore coach who started Adanacs, a player development program that helped several WVFHC athletes earn athletic scholarships to top-tier schools like Duke University.

Rutledge died in 2004 at the age of 41, but his widow, as well as his brother and parents, are scheduled to attend the opening of the field, according to Lindsay.

. . .

The Cangaroo Clash, a five-game exhibition between the Canadian and Australian men's national field hockey teams, will run Sept. 8-15 at Rutledge Field in West Vancouver's Ambleside Park.

Game times are Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.; Sept. 10 at noon following the Rutledge Field opening ceremony; Sept. 11 at 4 p.m.; Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.

jshepherd@nsnews.com

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