By T.J. Goertz
Centretown’s ultimate frisbee players are being ostracized by the city, says Nick Roberts, general manager of the Ottawa-Carleton Ultimate Association (OCUA).
The association has had to pursue field options that are a long way from a large percentage of players because there simply isn’t enough space in Centretown.
“There’s no land in the core of the city so why aren’t local politicians supporting an effort to build an easily accessible sports facility for members of the downtown community?” asks Roberts.
The OCUA was forced to purchase a large swath of land in Manotick a few years ago to account for a rapidly growing membership and lack of available fields from the city. They have since expanded into the largest ultimate league in the world, with approximately 600 members in the Somerset Ward, according to an OCUA survey.
“If we have an organization that has 4,300 members and the city is willing to give us five fields, how does that equate with 30,000 soccer players getting 425 fields?” asks Roberts. “It’s a simple question of mathematics.”
But Elisabeth Arnold, city councillor for Somerset Ward, says although ultimate players may feel like they are being slighted by the city, it’s not just their group that is having problems finding space.
“I don’t think we can look only at the ultimate issue,” she says. “I think it’s also an issue in terms of soccer, which is a really fast-growing sport, particularly for young people. It’s an issue for all of the different playing fields.”
Roberts says the league was not given respect by local residents when they moved their facilities to the Manotick area.
“We were treated like lepers,” says Roberts, “It was like, ‘Well, you shouldn’t be in our neighbourhood. You shouldn’t be playing here. This is for local people, not for you.'”
But Roberts says that attitude is hypocritical.
“Those same people go and shop in the Byward Market. Those same people go downtown to enjoy the canal,” he says. “They come to the core of the city to enjoy the facilities that are offered but when people who live in the core of the city try to do the same in their neighbourhood, they complain and want us out.”
He believes this unfair treatment creates a hassle for players living or working in Centretown. Mass transit doesn’t provide a suitable option for local players because the Transitway and the O-Train don’t go anywhere near most of the current field locations. Travel time and fuel costs also add up to create an unnecessary headache.
Former OCUA board member Mike Hall Jones works downtown until five each evening and plays ultimate three nights a week. He has to battle traffic to get to his home in the south end for dinner before attempting to get to the park in Manotick by 6:30.
“There is no bus service out to where we go and it’s a problem,” says Hall Jones. “We have lovely fields, but it annoys me to no end to drive by nine different soccer games while I’m driving about 20 kilometres out of town.”
However, there may be some relief in sight, says Arnold. The transportation committee approved expansion of the existing O-Train, leaving it up to council to decide the rest.
But for now, downtown players find it difficult to travel out to where many of the games take place. Centretown resident Colin Spencer James plays in the league and does own a car. But he wishes he didn’t have to drive so far out of his way to play the game that he loves.
“It’s an added cost that people who have access to in-city facilities don’t have to pay,” he says.