Coun. Niall Paltiel said request from Peninsula Football Club is competing against other demands. (Submitted)

Central Saanich councillor reserves judgment about soccer pitch proposal

Coun. Niall Paltiel said soccer pitch proposal competes against other recreation demands

A Central Saanich councillor and member of the local recreation commission is reserving judgment about a $300,000 request for artificial soccer fields.

Peninsula Football Club is asking the three Peninsula municipalities for a total of $1.3 million towards replacing the two grass fields at Heron Park in North Saanich with two artificial fields. The club has asked North Saanich for $700,000 plus $300,000 each from Central Saanich and Sidney. The club itself plans to contribute anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000 of in-kind funding towards the project, which it would like to see get underway this spring.

“It’s not a ‘no’ [to the request], but we need to have a real, fulsome discussion about this at council, and we haven’t had one yet,” said Coun. Niall Paltiel, who also sits on the Peninsula Recreation Commission.

He had said earlier that the club contributes much to the community.

“It benefits a lot of families in Central Saanich,” he said. “I will say though that the replacement [of a lacrosse box in Central Saanich] is also something that has been burning. That lacrosse box in Centennial Park is in desperate need of repair. There has also been talk of outdoor pickleball facilities and an outdoor skate park. So there are a lot of competing interests.”

Paltiel said he has spoken with club officials about this issue. “I’m of course supportive of them finding money from other levels of government,” he said. “When it comes to Central Saanich taxpayers and the competing interests of our residents, I want to make sure that we have a strategic planning discussion about this and ensure that when we do spend our hard-earned tax dollars within Central Saanich, that we are looking at the entire community and the needs of everybody at the table.”

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When asked about the club’s stated goal to get the project started in spring, Paltiel said he would be interested to see how North Saanich and Sidney (which has already signed off on its budget) will react to the request.

“At this point, we have done the most important thing, that is we have endorsed our staff and Peninsula Soccer to sit down with the other two municipalities,” he said. “I cannot for one minute pretend to know what North Saanich and Sidney are thinking about this or what they are prepared to put forward for this in this kind of time frame. I agree with you, because of where we are at in budget [talks], these kinds of things are tight and it typically takes a few months before an item is integrated into the budget.”

This said, Paltiel said staff under interim chief administrative officer Paul Murray can get it done.

The club has also asked for a grant that would cover approximately 75 per cent of the total costs, with the rest to come from the club, local governments, sponsors and in kind donation. A previous application had failed.

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