Building a field hockey facility an investment in community-building

–By Ottawa Sportspage, for Nepean Nighthawks

People often marvel at the diversity on display during field hockey matches. Unfortunately, the observation isn’t particularly accurate. We’re actually all the same – we all love field hockey.

But it’s true. Our sport does have the power to erase lines that sometimes divide us in other aspects of life, like culture, skin colour, or religion. Field hockey often connects people who otherwise might not interact with each other. The opportunity to work together and help build our community – that’s the core reason behind our desire to build a field hockey facility in the nation’s capital.

Our sport has grown in leaps and bounds locally in recent years. All kinds of people are flocking to play the world’s second-biggest field sport. The explosion of interest in our area stems in part from our unique blend of traditional ice hockey families playing outdoors in the summertime and those who have come to Canada from other parts of the world where field hockey is simply known as hockey. Hey, it all starts with a hockey stick.

Unfortunately, we’ve become a bit of a victim of our own success. There is currently only one place field hockey can be played somewhat adequately in town (though the Minto Field playing surface itself at Nepean Sportsplex is far from optimal).

That puts us in competition with other sports groups looking to use the field. Our club can no longer recruit new players into our existing programs because they’re at maximum capacity, and it’s very difficult to access any suitable field time for adults looking to continue playing field hockey without stealing core slots from the youth. It makes it more challenging to engage the next generation of coaches, umpires, volunteers and organizers, which puts our future at risk. Field hockey is growing, but it’s kind of eating itself at the same time. The sport is at a definite crossroads in Ottawa.

That’s led us in recent years to develop a vision for a world-class field hockey venue. The estimated $3.5 million facility would include 2 lit, side-by-side synthetic field hockey pitches, spectator seating, changerooms, maintenance/storage and a clubhouse.

This would fundamentally change how we deliver programs. It would enable greater participation and quality practice. It would allow young athletes to dream bigger.

Our teams’ and athletes’ performances – including provincial/national titles, Youth Olympic Games medals and Team Canada appearances – have put Nepean on the map in the field hockey world.

Field Hockey Canada and the Pan American federation have said such a facility would guarantee major competitions in the capital. We look forward to inspiring players to reach for the top, and to show off what a beautiful city Ottawa is.

The facility offers obvious economic benefits for local tourism. The project is based on a responsible business model that includes strategic partnerships, financing and a sustainable bottom line. Those elements are crucially important.

But many benefits don’t appear in a ledger, such as reduced health care costs, positive mental health impact, education, youth employment and all the life skills and lessons the sport provides.

When we host a tournament, we feed everybody – nobody pays, we all eat together. It shows friendship and hospitality between supposed opponents.

Like the kids experience on the field, parents get the chance to come together and realize what’s the same about you rather than what people tell you is different. It’s about bringing families together in a common place so they can understand each other better at a human level. For us, that’s the Canadian way.

After more than 50 years of field hockey in Ottawa, a dedicated facility would embed us into the community. It would provide the opportunity to play, and play for life. To give young players something to be a part of. And to be proud of their community.

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