Yatetown: New bike path could mean game over for soccer pitch

Metro Men's Soccer League last used grass field in March 2009

David Lam Park is one of a kind, but thanks to a few metres of a lengthy bike path linking the sea wall with Stanley Park, the last remaining grass soccer field in downtown Vancouver might never see action again.

Located between Pacific Boulevard and a busy stretch of sea wall at the foot of sky-scraping condominiums near the Roundhouse Community Centre, the 4.3-hectare David Lam Park has two tennis and two basketball courts in addition to a soccer field once used by the Mens Metro Soccer League and formerly home to the Yaletown Football Club.

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But the urban green space will become a crucial link in the citys next ambitious downtown network of bike and walking paths, an approximately three-kilometre route between False Creek and Stanley Park. The first phase of the Comox-Helmcken Greenway through the West End to Hornby Street will cost $5.4 million. Construction has already begun.

The remainder of the project will split into two routes, one along Helmcken and a second along Drake, and will continue at a future date for an undetermined cost.

Where the proposed bike path cuts through David Lam Park is the concern for Anne Thompson, a former field hockey director with the Vancouver Hawks and an advocate with the Vancouver Field Sport Federation (VFSF), where she chairs the facilities committee. (The VFSF is group of sport organizers that consults with the city and park board.)

The plans are there its going through David Lam Park and it cuts off the field and well no longer have an adult-sized field there, she said, noting the city documents are not detailed enough to be certain but nonetheless indicate the bike path will cut through a corner of the pitch.

The next public consultation has not been scheduled, and Thompson is concerned community input will not be enough to change the route.

David Lam is a neighbourhood field. Its used by locals in the city, she said, adding that the four turf fields at Andy Livingston and Trillium parks are not equal to the solitary downtown grass pitch. Whats more, the turf fields are regularly booked by suburban users.

Those are great resources, but we cant afford to lose any more Grade A grass fields, said Thompson.

The field at David Lam Park was closed for the 2010 Winter Games when it was transformed into an Olympic Live Site. Since then, the once high-quality grass pitch has not been used for organized sport. Geoff Catliff, an organizer with the Mens Metro Soccer League and its representative to the VFSF, wants to ensure David Lam Park hosts mens soccer again.

Its really dragged on, he said. It would be a tragedy to lose a working grass soccer pitch. We are convinced the bike route does not need to be routed across the corner of the soccer field. It can go around it and the field can be maintained.

He said soccer players, particularly older Masters athletes and others of all ages who have been injured, prefer to play on grass rather than turf. We lose so many of our best grass pitches to turf, said Catliff.

Because the field does not convert to a baseball diamond in the spring, Catliff said David Lam was an especially valuable resource. It was critical. It was available for provincial cup play in the spring and then for spring and summer league, he said.

Our team would play there every year against local competition.

No one was available from the city for comment.

mstewart@vancourier.com

Twitter.com/MHStewart

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