Work has started on an expansion to the Mayfield Soccer Pitch in Stephenville to accommodate a regulation adult-size field. — Star photo by Frank Gale
STEPHENVILLE Brent Watkins likes how Stephenville is making strides toward building its capacity to grow soccer in the town.
The Stephenville Minor Soccer Association, with Watkins leading the group in the role of president, has been in negotiations with the Town of Stephenville for the last couple of years about the possibility of adding a regulation size soccer pitch to the Mayfield Soccer Complex. The existing complex is comprised of three smaller soccer pitches with two being used for players in the Under-10 age group and the other used for the Under-12 age group.
The good news for Watkins and the soccer community is work has begun on building an adult soccer pitch 70 metres wide and 110 metres long and will be situated on the back of the existing fields.
“By the end of next summer is the goal,” Watkins said of the timeline he expects to be facing with the development.
Watkins said Stephenville has become the biggest minor soccer community on the west coast outside of the City of Corner Brook with around 350 boys and girls getting a kick out of summer on the soccer pitch this past summer.
“The youth program is growing, but there’s nowhere for the older kids to go,” he said.
Having a regulation field at its disposal will allow minor soccer players an opportunity to continue playing the game at home when they finish up their minor careers. Watkins said a lot of soccer players in the Stephenville area walk away from the game when they get older because they don’t have something to strive towards. He believes players will look forward to trying to crack the roster of the Stephenville entry in the Corner Brook senior men’s soccer league once they realize the town has the facilities to put out the welcome mat.
Of course, getting more people to enjoy the game and having an avenue for young players to continue playing for years is all good news, but Watkins also believes the town will eventually be in a good position to host major soccer events both at the minor and adult level. Most of the provincial soccer tournaments hosted on the west coast of the province are staged at the Wellington Street Sports Complex in Corner Brook — one of oly five artificial turf venues in the province.
“The youth have something to strive towards, but need suitable facilities to get there,” he said, noting new nets will eventually be added to the fields and provincial government funding this year has allowed the association to put some change rooms in place at the complex.
Watkins believes soccer will grow even faster in the town if the day comes when Stephenville is fortunate enough to have its own facility with artificial turf. One of the five artificial turf fields on the east coast falls under the Portugal-St. Phillips minor soccer group and this gives Watkins reason to believe an artificial turf field for Stephenville could be in the cards in the near future.
“They’re not a big association either,” he said.
Watkins has the support of the town in its desire to compete with some of the other vibrant soccer towns in the province. He said registration numbers have been strong for a number of years and sees no reason why Stephenville can’t find its way onto the list of movers and shakers in provincial soccer circles and be the next town with a turf pitch to expand the horizons on the west coast.