The Tzeachten First Nation has two sporting passions, soccer and baseball.
And now, they can play year round, rain or shine, thanks to a brand new artificial turf field.
Ground was broken on the $3.2 million project in May and construction moved ahead at a break-neck pace. The field was ready for use in mid-October, bringing a smile to the face of Tzeachten Chief Derek Epp.
“Soccer is very much a cultural sport to us, something we’ve played for a hundred years and something that’s entrenched in the way we live our life,” Epp said. “Tournament season is massive amongst Aboriginal people, and baseball is just as massive within our culture.”
This is the fourth artificial turf field in Chilliwack, and the first on the Sardis side of the freeway. North-side fields exist at Townsend Park, Exhibition Stadium and Chilliwack secondary school.
But Tzeachten’s field is different from the others in the way that it melds baseball and soccer.
In the picture to the right, Epp and Tzeachten general manager James Atebe are standing at home plate, but they are not standing on dirt. The ball diamond is turf as well, including the infield.The ‘outfield fence’ is an arced white line that is just visible, running left to right on the soccer pitch behind Epp ane Atebe.
The inset photo provides an overhead take on the unique design.
“The process was extremely quick, way faster than I ever imagined,” Epp said. “Within a week the land was cleared and it snowballed from there.
“What we’re standing on today is beatiful to see, it’s what the community desired and I believe it even supercedes what the community envisioned we would be able to produce.”
The biggest smile to cross Atebe’s face comes when he talks about the high tech light poles that loom over the field. They are LED lights and they can be turned on remotely. No coming down to the field to throw a switch in a box. Atebe can do it from his cell-phone.
“It’s a state of the art unique facility that we feel will serve our members for a long while,” Atebe said.
And they’re likely not done.
With roughly 10.7 acres of undeveloped land remaining, Atebe suggests there’s more to come as Tzeachten moves ahead with ‘phase two.’
“We want to put in washrooms and a second clubhouse,” he said. “And looking a little bit farther, I think we would like to have an indoor artificial turf warm-up space.”
The best news for local user groups is that Tzeachten doesn’t plan to keep this new field all to themselves, and Epp has already heard from local sports organizations.
“Chilliwack FC has contacted us and they’re talking about having super-eight games here,” Epp said. “I think it would be a great partnership for us to have between Chilliwack FC and Tzeachten.
“And as far as future expansion, we believe this is going to be a success and if the community deems it necessary in the future, then we will pursue more.”