** This story has been updated
The next few seasons will mean some schedule juggling and travel for teams with North Surrey Minor Football.
Construction of the new grandstand and track at Bear Creek Park has the youth sports organization on the move to South Surrey Athletic Park for “home” games, with practices shifted to a single field at Tom Binnie Park.
But first, the association’s annual Joe Connelly Bronze Boot tournament will be played on the grass at Bear Creek Park on the weekend of Aug. 27 and 28, in the final football games there before work crews move in, starting in September.
In six divisions, both flag and tackle, two dozen teams are registered for the tournament, now in its 53rd year. The longest running pre-season football tournament in B.C., the Bronze Boot traditionally kicks off the season for Vancouver Mainland Football League (VMFL), which gets going the following week.
Playing home games in South Surrey isn’t ideal for North Surrey Minor Football, but president Robert Lobelsohn says there aren’t many options for the club.
“They’ve given two years for this, and it’s kind of changed a couple of times,” Lobelsohn said Friday (Aug. 19). “We’re told that as of Labour Day, the oval at Bear Creek Park will be closed, as well as the side field that we usually use for practice, so essentially they’re forcing us away from Bear Creek Park for however long it takes to build the stadium.”
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Lobelsohn called it “growing pains” for the association, active since the 1960s.
“We’ll go from having two practice fields there (at Bear Creek) from 6 to 10 at night, to one practice field at Tom Binnie, from 5 to 10 p.m. Five o’clock isn’t easy for parents, who work too, right. We’ll have nine teams on the one field so we’ll be experimenting with staggered starts and see how we can adjust to make it work for everybody.”
For games, the White Rock Titans organization helped out by offering turf at South Surrey Athletic, Lobelsohn explained.
“Using their second field will get us through this period,” he said. “It’s a juggle, for sure. We don’t have many choices in Surrey. Cloverdale Athletic and South Surrey Athletic are the only real football parks where we can play football in Surrey, at this time. It’s just the way it is.”
Track clubs will also be moving out of Bear Creek Park during construction of the $23-million grandstand. Richmond-based Heatherbrae Builders pitched the lowest bid to build the structure. Surrey city council approved the construction contract to the company on July 25.
Plans are to build a new “destination athletics centre” for Surrey, with grandstand seating for 2,200 people (two-thirds covered) and possible expansion of another 1,000 temporary seats.
Originally, the new facility was to include a synthetic turf field, but the latest news is that grass will now be installed in the oval, and that concerns the football association.
Said Lobelsohn: “We’re hoping for turf, which is the way to go to keep our kids playing throughout the year, especially during the wet weather like we got last fall.”
Turf is more expensive than grass, Lobelsohn acknowledged, “but the cost is all front-loaded and the upkeep is much less over its lifetime. It almost makes no sense to put it back to grass, because then you have to mow it and have to water it, and that all costs money. A turf field, you don’t mow it or water it.”
A couple of years ago the Bronze Boot tournament was named for Joe Connelly, a North Surrey football pioneer who’s been involved in the game for more than five decades.
• RELATED: 50 years of Bronze Boot football battles in Surrey, from August 2019.
Connelly, who is on the mend following open-heart surgery six weeks ago, said he’ll be at this week’s tournament, as always.
“I had a quadruple bypass, and they threw in a pacemaker,” Connelly said. “But everything’s going well now.
“I started the thing and the tournament’s named after me,” he added, “so I help with the scheduling and all that. It kind of runs itself after 53 years, you know,” Connelly added with a laugh.
The 2022 Bronze Boot tournament schedule is posted below.