Winnipeg soccer's 'crown jewel' set to open

As originally seen on The Winnipeg Sun: www.winnipegsun.com

A huge facility about to open its doors on Leila Avenue promises to be a “crown jewel for indoor soccer in Winnipeg and across the country,” says the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association’s executive director.

“I can tell you from an amateur standpoint, this will be the best facility in the country,” Carlo Bruneau said. “It’s head and shoulders better than any facility in Winnipeg — and it’s got that brand-new car smell.”

The $20.6-million venue, currently called Winnipeg Soccer Federation North, is slated to open in the first week of July.

“From a youth perspective, the addition of a facility like this is phenomenal,” Bruneau said. “It’s a world-class facility at 120,000 square feet.

“The field is fresh, the lines are bright. I’ve been in soccer for a number of years now and when people see that there’s 360-degree seating — that is the type of thing that makes people really happy.”



Construction began last April on the building, which will be managed by the Winnipeg Soccer Federation. It will have a FIFA-sized pitch, 16 change rooms, a concession and pro shop. There will be meeting space on the second-floor mezzanine, which boosts the overall square footage to 165,000.

“Those who have seen it are really impressed,” said WSF president Devon Kashton. “Bird Construction and Stantec have done just a phenomenal job on the facility.”

Bird and Stantec also teamed up to build the WSF’s Subway Soccer South complex, which opened at the University of Manitoba on Chancellor Matheson Road in 2008. The North building will be “better and more efficient” due to technology and superior viewing areas, Kashton said, adding a deal on the building’s naming rights is in the works.

“The disadvantage to that seating (at WSF’s Soccer South) is for the games in the back corners,” Bruneau said. “You have to stand and look over people’s shoulders to view the game.

“At this new facility, it’s going to have 360-degree seating, so that’s phenomenal to have that kind of luxury to view the game from all angles.”

The facility, next door to Garden City Shopping Centre and just across the field from the impressive Seven Oaks Arena that opened last fall, will be also be used for “all green sports,” including ultimate disc, baseball evaluation camps, touch football and rugby, Kashton said.

“Because we’re a winter city, venues like this are so critical to youth, adults and seniors,” Kashton said. “Our one in the south is full occupancy-plus, so this one — I wouldn’t call it long overdue — but it’s certainly very timely.”

There is enough of a demand for bookings that the nearby Garden City Soccer Complex, home to amateur teams and the Winnipeg Alliance FC, should continue to be busy, Kashton said.

The WYSA will begin offering programming out of the venue this fall and continue to be a regular tenant, Bruneau said.

“It will allow us to better program our development for the players, it’s going to give us a safer environment for the players and it will give a better experience for the fans as well, so there’s a trifecta of what you look for in the development of a facility,” Bruneau said.

“We’re actually going to be able to play half-field games now for our premier league and that’s a tremendous improvement for our ability to mimic the outdoor game. We’ve always had to play quarter fields, six-on-six soccer.

“We can’t wait to get in there.”

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