Ground: Trillium Park
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia (Google Maps)
Capacity (seated): Zero (only standing areas available)
Matches: Norvan Pacific vs. Surrey United Firefighters, Sapperton Rovers United vs. Delta United Hurricanes, Richmond FC Hibernians vs. Coquitlam Metro-Ford Wolves, and ICSF Inter vs. ICST Pegasus
Date: Saturday, September 10, 2011
League: Vancouver Metro Soccer League, Premier Division (first weekend of 2011-12 season)
Attendance: Few dozen? (unofficial)
Full photo gallery (on Flickr)
It’s difficult for a groundhopper to resist the urge to visit a “new” ground – a venue that they haven’t yet visited. But what about when the venue is literally new – as in recently constructed? Generally, groundhoppers prefer older and more established grounds – because they have character. As we were to discover, the immediate area around the ground is equally important in making a ground worth visiting.
We recently paid a visit to Trillium Park, the new Vancouver public park that features two artificial turf surfaces. The journey toward the ground started out so well: the pleasing aesthetics of the False Creek seawall and Olympic Village, the throbbing orb that is Science World, and the ageing Pacific Central train/bus station (which was covered in scaffolding and white tarps for renovations). Spiffy.
But then, just several feet north of the train station, things suddenly go horribly wrong. We approached National Avenue, which juts glaringly out of Station Street like a syringe hanging out of an unconscious junky’s arm. Looking far down its length, it gave the impression of something out of a post-Apocalyptic movie.
Even the nicest industrial estates generally aren’t very pleasant and inviting places. But it turns out that Trillium Park sits smack in the middle of one of Vancouver older industrial areas. And it shows. Glaringly so.
Chain-linked fences and barbed wire adorned both sides of the “neighbourhood” street, substituting for the boring cliché that are trees and grass. In fact, virtually all signs of nature were not to found: empty lots feastured either cracked pavement or scorched dirt that had long since lost the ability to sustain life, both of which had been baked by decades of direct sunlight exposure.
Impressively, there was a sidewalk – although the separation between pedestrian and vehicle space had a concrete divider more than a foot tall. I felt secure. But from what? Just what exactly was I about to encounter on this long and perilous trek down National Avenue?
To the west of Trillium Park lies a massive, empty lot. Formerly the Burlington Northern rail yard, the site now sits empty. It was briefly used last year as a bus depot during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, which caused a lawsuit over noise and other alleged nuisances. The site was apparently being eyed by the province as a location for a replacement for St. Paul’s Hospital (located downtown), but its future remains murky.
To the east is a public works yard, has has some fancy architecture and art that is unusual for the area.
To the south, a train depot.
I soon reached the ground. The site was been used for a myriad of industrial uses over the decades, most recently as a concrete service pit. The soil had possibly become contaminated, and thus clean top soil was added before placing the new turf pitches.
The playing venue was not only void of the usual things one associates with a football ground (stands, concessions/teahut, clubhouse), but so too was it lacking the usual pleasantries found in Vancouver’s parks used for soccer. There were some trees and greenery, but being so newly planted they hardly dominated the landscape. The ground itself was wrapped in a metal fence, giving the venue a rather “incarcerated” feeling. As the ground is basically two pitches wrapped in fence, the spectator can only stand in the concreted space between the two pitches, if they want a view unobstructed of games.
To be fair, Trillium Park is still a work in progress. A passive park is meant to be built to the immediate north of the ground, which was most recently used as a temporary Vancouver Police Department “dog squad” facility. I’m sure the new landscaping will be splendid. But on my visit, however, it was still several piles of dirt.
Sadly, like most other municipally-owned synthetic turf pitches, multiple sports lines appear on the pitch. How dare someone play a sport other than football!
Okay, now to sound less grouchy and miserable. The field house (changing rooms and washrooms) looks fantastic. Featuring recycled wood beams from the deconstruction of the old Mt. Pleasant Community Centre, the building exterior’s has been splashed with a douse of colour (red on the south and green on the north) that is sorely lacking in this industrial area.
(Even nicer would be if people knew what the combination was for the lock on the dressing rooms. Instead, players had to change into their kit in the public washroom in the same building.)
The venue also offers a nice view of Vancouver’s condo towers to the west, which is particularly attractive at night.
It’s also nice to have a viewing area in between two pitches, allowing spectators to take in two matches simultaneously. (I was amazed at how much wheeling and dealing went on here, with coaches soliciting players to join their club.) It would be better if there was some sort of cover from the elements in this area, however, as the summer sun and winter rain will cause some would-be spectators to keep away.
There were very few people at Trillium Park as the first matches were about to begin at 12pm. As I leaned against the short fencing that separates the pitch from the central walkway, I was eyed with suspicion, as most of the players simply toss their bags and valubles on the side of the pitch (close to where I was standing).
As half-time approached during the first two matches (12pm-2pm), players, WAGs and clingers-on began to arrive for the second set of matches (2pm-4pm). The area between the two pitches began to swell with people, and numerous pleasantries and conversations were struck up. Finally, Trillium Park began to buzz like a proper football ground and community asset.
The matches itself were decent. The primary game I was there to witness was Norvan Pacific (of North Vancouver) versus Surrey United Firefighters. Perhaps because Surrey is one of the more storied clubs of the Vancouver Metro Soccer League, their match was a very clean affair, despite being a hard-fought contest in an intense summer sun.
Meanwhile, on the east pitch, Sapperton Rovers (of New Westminster) took on Delta United Hurricanes (which are apparently not an amalgamation of two American airline companies) in a match characterized by more normal pub-league behaviour: moaning at the ref, a few dirty tucks and tackles, one player screaming “who do you think you are?” at another, and so forth. All good fun.
Playing left-back for Surrey was former Vancouver Whitecaps player Steven Kindel, who had a penchant for smashing the ball up to the right-sided midfielders and striker. And their manager: none other than former Vancouver Whitecaps striker and Canada international Niall Thompson (technically he’s a player-manager, having scored in the Imperial Cup final that Surrey won this past March).
Norvan put up a decent effort, but lost 2-1 to superior opposition. Norvan’s primary striker was a plump fellow with decent speed, but he and the other attacking players didn’t seem to have much chemistry together.
On the other pitch, Delta pissed away a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2 against Sapperton. I blame their black shirts, which couldn’t have been very pleasant to play in during the 27°C summer heat.
I also learned why Sapperton Rovers are now referred to as “Rovers United” on the VMSL website: they were swallowed by Burnaby Select Youth Soccer Club (who demanded the removal of “Sapperton” from the club name) in early July, and shortly thereafter merged with Vancouver United. A rather sad development in my mind, as “Rovers United” is a bland (and dare I say, meaningless) name that sounds more like a U-8 squad than a proper football club. Without their community prominently in their club name, “Rovers United” screams “pub-league”. Hopefully this development will be reversed in the years to come.
The second set of matches featured Richmond FC Hibernians (dressed in green and white hoops, which is more associated with Celtic) against Coquitlam Metro-Ford Wolves on the east pitch, while the western pitch featured ICSF Inter versus ICST Pegasus. The latter club won the provincial championship this past May, and will represent British Columbia at the National Championships Challenge Trophy (a trophy that has been awarded annually since 1913 to Canada’s amateur club champion) in Brossard, Quebec on October 5-10, 2011.
I didn’t stick around for too long during the second set of matches, but I did notice two former Vancouver Whitecaps playing for Pegasus: utility player David Morris made his return to the game after a two-year absence (brandishing a knee brace on his right leg), as well as Diaz Kambere (who had two caps for Canada U-23 MNT and a stint with Victoria Highlanders).
This opening weekend of the VMSL season saw all of the Premier Division’s matches at Trillium Park, which was a nice way of acknowledging the new ground. However, most of these big clubs will return to their normal suburban stomping grounds, and Trillium Park will become the regular home to Croatia SC (Prem Div and Under-21), and to Blarney Stone FC and the Saudi-themed Ajyal Tigers of Division Three. A couple of Division One clubs, Vancouver Olympics (whose coach set up Portugal international goalkeeper Daniel Fernandes with his trial at PAOK FC in Greece) and Binger’s Army, will also both get a single match there.
So, in summary: nice pitches, nice field house, crap location. Hopefully the new passive park to be built immediately north will make the ground easier on the eyes. Nice venue to play at, but probably not worth the journey as a spectator. Unless you’re a WAG. Or a HAB.
Surrey Now: Late goals spur Pegasus to win
Royal City Record: Rovers United open with win
Coquitlam Now: Premier Wolves open with a tie (scroll to bottom of article)
VMSL: Vancouver Metro Soccer League Season Off to a Flying Start