The University of the Fraser Valley’s soccer teams are moving from Abbotsford to Chilliwack.
The UFV athletic department recently finalized a deal with the City of Chilliwack which will see the Cascades men’s and women’s squads play their Canada West conference home games out of Exhibition Field during the 2012 season. The west pitch at Abbotsford’s Bateman Park had been the UFV teams’ previous home.
The move allows the Cascades to schedule evening games, something they were unable to do at Bateman Park, which does not have field lights. Furthermore, Exhibition Field features covered seating for 2,000 people, which far exceeds the capacity of Bateman’s collection of bleachers.
While Abbotsford has been the historic hub of UFV athletics, interim athletic director Chris Bertram doesn’t think decentralizing will be detrimental.
“I see it as a real positive,” he said. “We’re the University of the Fraser Valley, and not the university of just Abbotsford.
“Chilliwack and the University of the Fraser Valley are becoming more strongly linked in many ways. To give the community the opportunity to embrace one of our athletic programs helps cement that even further.”
UFV women’s soccer coach Rob Giesbrecht said the ultimate dream would be to have an on-campus soccer venue in Abbotsford. But until that materializes, he believes Exhibition Field is the best option.
“We’re trying to put on an experience for our student-athletes that is a bit more professional,” he said. “Playing at night, playing in a stadium in front of more people is more conducive to that.
“I’m trying to market our games to young female soccer players. At noon on a Saturday or Sunday, the majority of those players are either just finishing a game or are going to a game.
“So we ended up playing in front of parents and the odd friend. But this is the highest level of university sports in Canada – can we not think of a better way to get the young, aspiring players in the Fraser Valley to watch us play?”
The Cascades women’s home opener is tentatively set for Sept. 7 vs. Mount Royal at 5 p.m., while the men’s home opener is Sept. 14 vs. UBC at 7:15 p.m.