At the northeast corner of the city, Hastings Park—home to a famed wooden roller-coaster, a race track and the once iconic, then temporary, Empire Stadium—will undergo an extensive remodel this winter.
Twenty-seven acres of park space will expand to 76 acres, according to city plans, but a few inches added to a multi-sport court at the newly named Plateau Sports Park could make a world of difference to street soccer players in Vancouver.
Located on the former site of Empire Field, the Plateau Sports Park will include two large and three small grass fields and one multi-sport court suitable for basketball, ball hockey and now also street soccer.
“When I saw there was sport court that was going to be for hockey, I thought it was the perfect location,” said parks board chairperson Sarah Blyth.
The court will accommodate the small dimensions of the hard-surface courts seen at the Homeless World Cup. Canada sends a women’s and men’s team to the annual tournament and selects players from across the country, including members of the Vancouver Street Soccer League, which counts players living in the Downtown East Side and at Covenant House. Mexico City hosted 2012 World Cup earlier this month.
Blyth worked at the New Fountain Shelter three years ago when she helped organize street soccer teams with the support of the Portland Hotel Society.
“The Vancouver Street Soccer League is sending folks all over the world to travel and it’s giving people opportunity,” said Blyth. “It’s time for us to recognize the efforts of all the people who are involved and particularly in a way that they have their own space.”
The Portland Hotel Society started building a street-size turf soccer court on Concord property it uses on Hastings Street where it tends to a community garden, but they did not secure permits to continue the project.
Full disclosure: I volunteer with the Vancouver Street Soccer League.