While he said it would be “nice to have,” local football coach Chris Glass said an air-supported dome over top of the much-anticipated artificial turf field at Ed Eggerer Athletic Park was never in the original scope of the project.
According to Glass, the president of Airdrie Field Turf Project Society (AFTPS) and the head coach of George McDougall High School’s football team, an air-supported structure wasn’t part of the AFTPS’s original ask to City council and would be supplemental to the need for an artificial turf sports field in Airdrie.
“What we’re really trying to push for is just to get an artificial turf field,” Glass told the Airdrie City View, after the project returned to City council on March 6, and the idea of building a “bubble” over the future playing surface was brought up. “The City had asked administration to look into what that would look like... and that’s when it expanded out to [include a dome].
“We would welcome that, but we don’t want to see a delay in the progress that we’ve made in order to get the field that we need.”
For four years, the City has been working with AFTPS to have an artificial turf field playing surface installed at Genesis Place. In 2021, council approved a cost-sharing agreement for the construction of the field.
Unfortunately, for several reasons, the field turf project did not progress as originally envisioned until last year, when council passed a motion directing administration to take the lead on the project.
Previously, on Nov. 21, 2022, council unanimously agreed to provide financial backing and administrative support to get the ball rolling on the project, which was first spearheaded by the AFTPS in 2019.
Glass said overall, the AFTPS is supportive of a bubble over top of the field that would facilitate other groups, such as the Airdrie and District Soccer Association, to also be able to play on the field.
An air-supported structure would create a “sports dome” that would enable other recreational and sports-related activities to make use of the field all year round. A similar structure exists over top of a few turf fields in Calgary already, including Shouldice Athletic Park and the Calgary West Soccer Centre.
“A seasonal air-supported dome and outdoor synthetic field combination would address both indoor and outdoor recreation needs while merging and saving capital dollars on what would have been two projects,” read a report to council on March 6.
To assist with the assessment of the project, the City is looking to secure the services of a contracted sport surface architect who can determine the feasibility of an air-supported “bubble” structure over the artificial turf field.
If the site conditions do not allow for an air-supported structure, council may be presented with alternative sites that would accommodate such a build to “satisfy the broader needs of the community without having to build separate sites at much higher price tag.”
The findings and recommendations of this assessment will be brought back to council at the next project update in the second quarter of the year.
But Glass reiterated that a dome was never something AFTPS was interested in when first devising the project.
“Overall, we’re supportive of the structure. We just don’t want the structure getting in the way of the timelines that we’ve been looking at,” he said. “I would like to see us playing no later than 2024 on that field... so we would have to have it in place just prior to September 2024.”
Though the dome would be a “nice to have,” it’s not a “need to have” for Airdrie’s football community, according to Glass.
“It’s nice to have for the football community... but today we’re the only ones who put up money, who have fundraised, and commissioned feasibility studies,” he said. “So, we’d like to see those efforts rewarded.
“Understandably a dome would allow soccer to get more involved and we encourage them to get involved in the fundraising as well.”
Glass said AFTPS has been lobbying for an artificial turf field for approximately four years and has raised more than $50,000 towards a feasibility study.
“We’ve committed to helping raise more money once we have a firm shovel-in-ground date and a plan that we could take to potential sponsors,” he shared.
“But we need to move on it relatively quick, because we’ve been at it for a long time and any more delays would be pretty disheartening to our group.”
With regards to discussions over an alternative location that would be supportive of a dome add-on, Glass said it isn’t something the society is interested in.
“We’d like to see it at Ed Eggerer. From what we understand, we commissioned a feasibility study with the City and it was deemed that location was appropriate,” he shared.
“So, we would like to see it there no later than 2024 and that’s what we’re going to be pushing for.”
He also suggested the turf field be implemented as “Phase One” of the project, and then the City could choose to add a dome later.
“You just need to start [the field] with the end in mind in the planning phase,” he explained.
The society president said the next steps will be important in determining the future direction of the project and will include working with the province to procure any applicable grant funding.
“I believe there’s about $1.3 million worth of grant money we can get it we build this project relatively quickly,” he explained. “There’s been some varying cost estimates, but I certainly believe $3.5 million would get a field with the lights we would need to play national and international games on that field.”