City scraps plans to replace Minto Field's 'sandpaper' turf

2 August 2017

The City of Ottawa has decided that the cost of replacing the artificial turf at Minto Field behind the Nepean Sportsplex is too high, leaving amateur football teams scrambling to find places to practice and play.

A new $1.3-million turf was installed in 2015, but when players suffered scrapes and abrasions, local football teams deemed the new surface "unsafe" and like "sandpaper."

"We had nothing but cuts, scrapes, torn uniforms," said Scott Boxall, president of Myers Riders Football, about the decision to pull his amateur league from Minto Field.

"We had players coming off the field bloody." said Boxall, whose players range from seven to 18 years of age. Earlier this year, the city said it was looking at replacing the turf due after receiving complaints from players.

This week, however, Boxall and other local sports clubs received an email for Kevin Wherry, the city's manager of parks and facilities planning, confirming that the turf would stay.

"This past Friday, we cancelled the procurement of the replacement turf at Minto Field," Wherry said in his email. "While this means no substantive changes for field hockey user groups, it does require we develop and confirm our short-and-long-term solutions for football in particular."

Boxall said his league was looking forward to playing on a brand new surface this September, after the city said it would be installing replacement turf that would be suitable for most sports.

But those plans have been scrapped, he said, because the only bid the city received for the project would cost more than the $500,000 allocated for the job.

"It's like being promised a Christmas present, and then finding nothing under the tree." said Boxall, adding that his league is now scrambling for places to practice and play around the legion.

In an email, Wherry later told CBC News that the city tried to negotiate with the bidder — but when they couldn't convince them to drop their prices, they cancelled the tender request on July 27.

The short-term plan is to provide practice fields at the Confederation Education Centre, "if temporary lighting can be secured," said Wherry. Quinn's Pointe Field in Barrhaven has also been slated as a temporary practice area.

A number of "suitable" fields will be made available for games, he added.

Confederation is also the "preferred" option for establishing a permanent "home field for football for this part of the west end of the city," Wherry said.

That would likely cost $600,000, he added. The city has scheduled a meeting with local amateur football groups for Wednesday.