THE CANADIAN PRESS
Optimist Park is under water for the second time this year, leaving the Brandon Youth Soccer Association executive reeling as they wonder what’s next for a facility that has never fully recovered from a devastating flood in 2011.
After pouring in a lot of time and resources to get Optimist Park close to fully operational following the 2011 flood, the Brandon Youth Soccer Association feels it’s back to square one.
Last week’s massive storm has flooded the soccer complex and the Assiniboine River continues to rise with water draining east from Saskatchewan. It’s the second time the park has flooded this year and it has left director of youth soccer Gerry Rocan searching for words.
"I don’t even have words that can describe it anymore," he said. "What’s your worst nightmare? How’s that one? It would be your worst nightmare.
"Usually we’re not wanting to see floods at all. It’s starting to be like we’re seeing these every couple years, but to have this happen again in the same year, it’s never happened before."
BYSA was able to handle the flood in the spring fairly easily as the water was clear and didn’t leave any silt on the newly seeded grass. This flood, however, will be much different.
Rocan was at the park during the last couple days and admits the water is dark and murky and filled with runoff from the countryside. It’s expected to be on the fields for a couple weeks and if a few inches of silt is left behind it will kill the grass and leave the organization trying to figure out what to do with the park.
"After 2011 the mindset was that we’re going to be able to get half (of the money it cost to make repairs) like a lot of other people did from the flooding and try and recover as much as you could," Rocan said. "That’s why we started putting money back into it again because it’s supposed to be a one in 300 year event. … This has gone beyond what we’re used to and what we can even try to deal with anymore.
"If you’re going to flood twice in a couple of months of each other, it basically tells you that you’re done. There’s no possible way, and not just for the soccer park, but for everything else that goes down the Assiniboine like how about Dinsdale Park and Queen Elizabeth Park and the Wheat City Golf Course. What are we doing if we’re constantly putting money into that stuff to revive it? Are we just basically wasting our time and resources or do we need to do something else?"
The soccer organization has looked at other locations to build a new complex, but Rocan expects a price tag of at least $1.5 million.
That’s why he is waiting to see the damage this flood causes before the organization makes a decision about trying to save the complex again.
In the meantime, Westman’s travelling soccer teams are looking for a new location to play their games, and so will the Assiniboine Community College Cougars and Brandon University Bobcats, who planned to play their Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference contests at Optimist, as well as the senior women’s league. CFB Shilo is an option for games, but some are being moved to Portage la Prairie.
While Rocan is frustrated and unsure about the park’s future, he admits other places are in much worse shape.
"When you take a look at the big picture, we’re just talking about soccer fields and pitches, but I don’t know how we as a community and Manitobans will try to deal with the bigger issue of continuous and catastrophic levels of flooding," he said. "I’m looking at these towns like Reston and Pierson and we’re inconvenienced because we can’t play soccer. This is where they live and they can’t even have a chance to deal with it. It’s their communities where they live and I can’t imagine."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 5, 2014