The Bracebridge Soccer Club says it’s looking to bring the spotlight back on sidelined discussions with the town about reimbursement for soccer fields it helped to build.
Controversy peaked over the Gostick Park soccer fields in the summer of 2011, when the town announced it was taking over full control of the facility as talks broke down with the club over the park’s management. The soccer club previously managed the fields and had raised about $200,000 and enlisted volunteers during its construction in 2004. Those contributions were matched by $175,000 contribution from the town and a Trillium grant of about $25,000.
Since losing control of the field’s management, the club pressed the town to reimburse it for its role in the park’s construction. But until now, club president Greg Black said the club has been too preoccupied with soccer to pursue the issue.
“We’ve been awfully busy. We’ve run the biggest program we’ve ever run this past year and we’ve expanded our programming, we’ve changed the way we deliver our house league program,” said Black. “We’re real busy trying to run soccer programs. We don’t have enough time to do what we need to do on the soccer field, never mind spending a lot of extra hours trying to track down deals with the town.”
However, he said the benched talks could soon be put back into play.
“We’ve been too busy to go back to them. But we’ll be starting to do that again in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
Since last summer, Black said volunteers have overseen a drastic growth in the club within Bracebridge.
“We’re up over 800 registered members now … and we’re running outdoor programs now for the fall season, which is the first time we’ve ever done that,” he said. “We raised the issue (of reimbursement) but our problem is we’re volunteers, we’re trying to do this part-time.”
The last time the club cried foul over the park was October 2011, when Black called a press conference to demand about $200,000 back from the town. When approached by this newspaper last week, Black said the compensation is to cover both the club’s share of construction costs and the time volunteers put in.
“There was a couple hundred thousand dollars that we put in cash, plus the time of our volunteers to build it. So we’d come up with a number based on what kind of construction and labour costs you would have to build a facility like that, and presumably that’s the kind of number that we’d be looking at to get from the town,” he said. “We’re waiting to see what the deal is.”
Noting that discussion of reimbursement is no longer a “hot button issue,” Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith said the town is continuing to work through a process to identify what appropriate reimbursement would be.
“At the time the town looked into this, I believe we recognized the soccer club has put a great deal of volunteer (hours) and sweat equity in the facility, and (we) are trying to accurately compensate them for that,” he said.
Under a previous agreement that expired in 2009, the town charged the club no fees for its usage. But with no agreement put in place since, town council announced in August 2011 it would begin charging the club fees in 2012.
The club, however, emerged with a small victory a few months later, when Smith announced that no fees would be charged in 2012, “and quite possibly for the future.”