The City of Yellowknife wants all groups using a soccer field at École St Joseph School to submit a joint proposal before it will allow new structures and portable toilets at the site.
The Yellowknife Bay Soccer Club previously asked the city for permission to install a trailer, storage can, and portable toilet in a corner of the field, saying the club needs a place to store equipment and for players to get changed and use the washroom.
While city planners initially turned down the club’s request in April, councillors reconsidered.
On Monday night, council passed a motion directing city staff to look into the proposal – but only if it comes from all groups who use the field.
Councillors also recommended that the city implement an agreement allowing portable toilets at the site next summer, as long as groups agree to submit a security deposit, address any vandalism, and maintain the facilities.
“I think this is a good route to go. I think it will provide us some flexibility,” Councillor Niels Konge said of that plan earlier this month.
The soccer club needs permission from council as the field is owned and maintained by the city.
During previous discussions, councillors and city staff expressed concern that if they allowed one soccer club to have private facilities on public green space, it could be unfair to other groups that use the field. They said that could open the door for more groups to request space for facilities, and noted there have been issues with vandalism of portable toilets in the past.
“If all user groups ask for amenities it will start to get cramped,” Mayor Rebecca Alty said.
Coach Joe Acorn, however, argued the Yellowknife Bay Soccer Club is one of the biggest users of the field, other groups would still be able to use the space as they always have, and the soccer club would fully fund and pay for the facilities.
On Tuesday, Acorn told Cabin Radio the club is open to sharing the facilities with other user groups as long as they agree to pay their share and maintain them. When it comes to sharing equipment, he said, storage space can be separated into different sections for each group.
“We’re trying to grow the game of soccer,” he said of the need for the facilities.
“I was at the field Saturday morning and I had a four-year-old boy holding his shorts asking where he could go to pee, and there’s no place to go pee. I mean, it turns people off when you can’t provide proper facilities.”
Acorn said he is waiting for clarification from the city if all user groups have to be part of the proposal – including soccer, rugby, cricket, and frisbee players, who all use the field – or if some can opt out.
“I understand the sentiment behind it, but I don’t feel like it’s realistic,” he said of the city’s decision. “I don’t think the little groups are going to want to put up thousands of dollars when they only use the field for an hour or two a week … If they choose to decline, then that shouldn’t hold us up from moving forward.”
Acorn said if the city agrees, the soccer club will bring the proposal to other groups and give them time to decide if they want to be part of the agreement and raise the necessary funds.
While the club hoped to have the facilities for this year’s soccer season, Acorn said that seems unlikely. He now wants to have the facilities installed by the end of the summer so they’re ready to use next spring.