BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Soccer fields at Optimist Park were under the flood waters last year.
People driving up and down First Street may think the field conditions at Optimist Park are improving this spring, but Brandon Youth Soccer Association director Gerry Rocan said those looks are very deceiving.
While the nine soccer pitches are getting green, none of the fields are ready to be played on and crews have only been working on the four southern fields to repair the damages from last year’s flood.
The other five fields are just growing weeds. The three to six inches of silt that settled on the fields still have to be removed, the ground will have to be crowned again and then seed can be planted. After the grass grows those fields will be ready to be used.
The irrigation and electrical systems at the complex were also destroyed by the flood and need to be replaced, which will be the association’s next project once the four southern fields are playable again.
"We’re leaving (the northern five pitches) till last because it’s going to be the most expensive project," said Rocan, who estimates the cost to repair the entire complex will total around $150,000. "We’re going to see what happens in terms of flood assistance."
The good news for the soccer association is it has received its first reimbursement cheque from the provincial government’s Disaster Financial Assistance program. The bad news is that the provincial program will only reimburse for flood repairs when receipts are presented, meaning the association will have to foot the initial bill.
Since the non-profit organization doesn’t have a lot of money, Rocan predicts it will take three to four years for all the repairs to be made. That is pushing the limits of the timeframe for assistance as the province must submit the final amount of reimbursements to the Canadian government within the next four years to receive federal funding.
Rocan said he wouldn’t feel comfortable applying for loans to pay for repairs to Optimist Park and then submitting the receipts to the provincial government for reimbursement to get Optimist running quicker. So, the organization may have to fight the clock instead.
"As a member of the youth board, I wouldn’t want to put the organization in a debt to try and rejuvenate the thing," he said. "I don’t think that would be in the best interest of everybody. I don’t speak for everybody on the board, but I think it would be best to use the resources to try and get back as much as we can."
That means the soccer association could be in a tough situation for the next few years when it will have to balance using a few pitches at Optimist along with school fields for its house and competitive teams. This spring, the organization used only school fields and some wore out with the busy schedule. Some games had to be cancelled to give the fields a rest.
Using school fields puts more of a strain on the BYSA as it has more fields to help maintain and divides its volunteers to different locations.
Rocan said the organization will try to keep going with this arrangement until Optimist is fully repaired, as no progress has been made toward a new football and soccer complex proposed a few years back.
"We’ll try. That’s all we can do," he said. "… It just really exhausts our resources because we have to duplicate and triplicate everything. It’s very frustrating that way."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 29, 2012