For years, G.W. Graham’s football teams have travelled across town to play home games at Exhibition Stadium.
But soon, the reigning AAA provincial champs will have a true home field.
The school is launching an ambitious project that will see a turf field, lighting and 300 temporary seats installed at G.W. Graham, built without a penny from the City of Chilliwack or School District 33.
If all goes well with fundraising, the project will include two more phases.
Phase 2 would add a building to accommodate changerooms, washrooms, a concession and merchandise stand. Phase 3 would replace the 300 temporary seats with 1,000 permanent stadium-style seats of the kind seen at Coquitlam’s Percy Perry Stadium.
“Whether it’s done in phases or all at once will depend on what the next 10 to 15 months looks like in terms of generating revenue,” said GWG athletic director Jake Mouritzen. “It’s important to state that none of the money required for this project will come out of the school district budget. No one needs to be concerned that money is being taken from other areas. This is something we’re doing as an in-house project.”
While G.W. Graham has gone through an arduous approvals process to get the green light from the City of Chilliwack and SD33, the whole thing is going to be self-funded. Specific costs for the project are still being nailed down, but Mouritzen anticipates having an initial fundraising goal between $500,000 and $1 million.
“Since 2010 I’ve approached the school district multiple times about the need for a turf field on the south side, and it’s just never worked out in their plans,” he said. “So about five or six years ago, I asked about what would happen if we generated the money required. Reaching that target of $500,000 to $1 million would put us in a place where the project could definitely begin.
“So this is a big week as we go public with the project, and in the future weeks and months we’ve got lots of events and projects planned to generate that revenue. It’s going to be a combination of intense fundraising and local companies stepping up in huge ways to help reduce the overall costs of the project.”
“This is something a large, large group of people are working towards, and it’s still a long ways away, but it’s a lot closer to becoming reality.”
Mouritzen is calling the project a huge win for all schools on the south side of Chilliwack.
Once complete, the field will be owned by SD33 and be accessible to Mt. Slesse Middle School, Vedder Middle School, and even GWG’s rivals at Sardis Secondary School.
“Right now, the middle school soccer league is being played at Tzeachten (turf) because we don’t have the grass fields anymore that are in good enough shape to run that level of competition,” Mouritzen said. “GWG and Sardis are both renting hundreds of hours of turf for field hockey and soccer and football. So while this new field will be GWG’s home, the idea is all south side schools will be able to access it when required/needed.”
Because the City of Chilliwack doesn’t have a stake in it, there won’t be restrictions on when school teams can use it.
“99.9 per cent of turf fields in the province are co-owned by the school district and the city,” Mouritzen explained. “In our school district, CSS (Chilliwack Secondary) would be an example where they have access to their field from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and at 5:01 p.m. the city takes control.
“This field will be 100 per cent owned by SD33, and all rental revenues will go to the maintenance of the field, and we’ll have access to it from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.”
Timelines are still being hammered out, but Mouritzen said the goal is to have the turf and lights installed by the fall of 2023.
“We want this project to assist in building champions in life, injecting excellence in our community and continuing to invest in our youth,” Mouritzen said. “Our hope is we can bring the community together by creating a place that everyone feels welcome to gather at, a place that is about more than just turf and sport, but a project the community can be proud of, and a place that is built by everyone for everyone.
“I’ll be able to enjoy it once I can lay down in the middle of the field and say it’s complete, but we’ve got lots of work to do and we’re looking for support from anyone and everyone who is willing to help us.”