By Dan Plouffe
The new local Field Hockey Centre group formally unveiled a vision to build a world-class facility for its sport in May, alongside a campaign that seeks to fundraise $250,000 of community contributions towards the $4 million project.
The Field Hockey Centre calls for two lit synthetic field hockey pitches, spectator seating, change rooms, maintenance/storage and a clubhouse to be built on land provided by the City of Ottawa on Colonnade Rd. in Nepean.
While those construction elements are of course critical, director Sandeep Chopra says that their initial knee-jerk reaction to view the Field Hockey Centre as a sport infrastructure project didn’t quite encapsulate the true objective.
“At its essence, our function is to make our community healthier than it is today, and continue that work going forward,” explains Chopra. “Our goals are to outreach to underserved communities in Ottawa, to build a world-class complex to serve the local community, and to partner with like-minded organizations.”
The project also includes a fitness trail wrapping around the pitches and a community garden. Chopra says they’ll partner with Ottawa’s Indo-Canadian Community Centre, and groups serving seniors and low-income communities. Field hockey is a sport that embraces diversity, he adds, and a centre in Ottawa would spur further growth.
The Field Hockey Centre’s public launch (via video meeting) drew attendees stretching from the local levels, to regional, provincial, national and Pan American representatives.
“It’s a great opportunity to get these players and more young kids inspired, especially in such an amazing location as Ottawa,” signals Mark Vaughan, the president of the West Vancouver Field Hockey Club. “I think this is a game changer for field hockey in Canada.”
New Centre could unlock field hockey’s growth potential, group notes
The project is spurred by the Nepean Nighthawks Field Hockey Club, though the Field Hockey Centre is a separate, newly-created not-for-profit organization that plans to manage the future facility, which will be owned by the City of Ottawa.
The Nighthawks have been operating at their maximum capacity while competing with other sports for field time at the Nepean Sportsplex’s Minto Field – the only local surface where field hockey can be played at a fairly high level.
The club notes that field hockey finds itself “at a definite crossroads in Ottawa” with its ability to grow stifled at present.
The City of Ottawa has offered land for the new Centre on Colonnade Rd., with Nepean Creek bordering to the north, a Canada Post facility to the west, and Charmaine Hooper Fields to the east.
The City would also contribute half of the project cost through its Community Partnership Major Capital Program. It is anticipated infrastructure funding from other levels of government will provide another source of funds, while the sale of facility naming rights will also represent another significant portion.
Chopra simplifies the fundraising pitch: if 250 people contribute $1,000, they’ll amplify those donations by 16 times through other sources.
The pandemic slowed progress for the project that’s been in the works for quite some time, but there was a bright side, Chopra highlights with a smile – it allowed several Nighthawks players to graduate with civil engineering and industrial design degrees, and they’ve helped craft initial plans for the facility pro bono.
“But there’s no question fundraising is the priority now,” underlines Chopra, whose group is accepting donations via fieldhockeycentre.ca. “Without that, there will be no construction.”
It’s possible the project could be split into two phases – they could begin building the first field once they’ve got $1 million in the bank.
“We’re already in year 10 of a five-year plan,” cracks Chopra. “And you know, I’m supposed to retire in a couple of years, so I’d really like to keep the momentum going and get this all done in one shot.”
Field hockey a vehicle to build community connections
Chopra, whose family has been a driving force behind field hockey in Ottawa since from its roots 50 years ago, says that this latest project mirrors the community-building exercise he’s lived with the Nighthawks.
A major focus for the club has always been to ensure the youngest age groups have a great experience, he outlines, so that they’ll enjoy field hockey throughout their youth, perhaps play at high levels, but most importantly always want to remain involved with the sport.
The group of kids that began with the Nighthawks in 2008 are now the club’s leaders, he pinpoints.
“Our focus is on doing something together, whereas normally in sports, you’re doing something against each other,” Chopra adds, noting that when they host events, they provide food for everyone free.
“We’re sitting there and eating together, playing together, and incrementally, bringing the understanding of those communities together,” he details. “Those connections, though they’re from field hockey, they’re really about something bigger.”