Vancouver field hockey community looking for new turf
A lack of competitive spaces for players limits the sports potential in B.C.
By EMILY BEST
Presented with the possibility of an overhaul of its neighbourhood park, the Moberly community has rallied to support a proposal to turn the space into a field hockey pitch.
The City of Vancouver has been examining various options as it plans to upgrade the park.
Meanwhile, as field hockey in Canada continues to grow, the lack of accessible turf space for competitive games across Vancouver means local teams face inconsistent scheduling and often long travel times. So, the Vancouver field hockey community is campaigning for specialised turf at Moberly Park as the City of Vancouver seeks input from the community on what to do with the 3.6-hectare space.
The subject of a field hockey turf was brought up and supported at the Khalsa Diwan Society Gurdwara temple when residents were discussing new amenities within the Sunset community.
Also, an online petition posted on change.org asking for a new South Vancouver field hockey turf has gathered 1,433 signatures since March 22, 2023.
Currently, there is only one field hockey turf apart of the city of Vancouver, at Eric Hamber Secondary School.
The struggles for players
Robyn Pendleton, a former Team Canada player who now plays recreationally in the Vancouver Women’s Field Hockey Association, said her team doesn’t have a home field. The Vancouver Hawks Field Hockey Club and the VRC Jokers Field Hockey Club are also amongst the groups vying for time at the only field.
“I would say it’s difficult because our games are really all over [Metro] Vancouver,” said Pendleton. “We have a roster of like, 27 people and we’re lucky if we can get 10 to a game.”
Pendleton attributes the issue to a lack of field access.
“Like we could be out in Coquitlam, we could be in Surrey,” she said. “And the timing is all over the place so it’s hard for us to get consistent commitment from people when we’re always fighting for field time.”
Field hockey is best played on a water-based turf
Field hockey cannot be played on a typical soccer field as the ball doesn’t roll smoothly in the longer grass, rendering competitive games unplayable. The sport requires a top layer of short and dense artificial grass, creating a flat surface suitable for a field hockey ball to roll smoothly.
Alex Bale, executive director and coach at Vancouver Hawks Field Hockey Club, hopes the city will consider synthetic turf that is accessible for field hockey.
“Field hockey requires a specific turf that’s slightly differ
ent to soccer,” Bale said. “It’s very inclusive because all other sports can play on field hockey turf, but field hockey can’t be played on most other turfs.”
Vancouver used to have three field hockey pitches. It lost two when the turf was replaced with longer artificial grass at Andy Livingstone Park in 2007. Since then, the field hockey community has been asking for a new field.
On July 26, Vancouver City Council approved funding for a new turf to be built at Moberly Park. The type of turf being built will be confirmed next year.
Ian MacKenzie, a field hockey representative with Vancouver Field Sports Federation, wants to get a specialized turf but added that geotechnical requirements of the land are another consideration. The soil type, hydrology and site conditions along with other factors, will impact the design of the base and the drainage system.
“You can’t just go stick [a turf] there right away,” said MacKenzie. “You need to know what’s underneath before you do any sort of construction.”
Backed by residents
Shawn Dhanda, who created the change.org petition, is a realtor in South Vancouver who took up field hockey in elementary school when his teacher created a team.
“That’s where I learned to play field hockey, at Moberly,” Dhanda said.
Vancouver Park Board Commissioner, Jaspreet Virdi, who has played field hockey for Team Canada, is also an advocate for the turf.
“I think people don’t realize how fast and how big the sport,” Virdi said.
The turf at Moberly is estimated to cost $8 million.
UBC and Crofton House School have field hockey accessible turfs that are available for public booking. They are more difficult to book for clubs though as they are more expensive and are not a part of the Vancouver city jurisdiction.