Adanac Park, Vancouver

Ground: Adanac Park (West)
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia (Google Maps)
Opened: December 23, 1957
Capacity: No seating

Match: Killarney Celtic vs. Portuguese Club of Vancouver (PCOV) Benfica
League: Vancouver Metro Soccer League Division 2 Cup, preliminary round
Date: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Attendance: 11 humans and 2 dogs

Full photo gallery (on Flickr)

Eventful lives have unfortunately meant the inability to attend a VMSL league match during this 2012-13 season. But with the cup season kicking off during a long-weekend, it was time to put the excuses aside and finally get back out to watch some live football for the first time in almost a year.

Practically needed a passport to attend this one!

The Vancouver Metro Soccer League’s Imperial Cup (Prem. and Div. 1 clubs) and Division 2 Cup (Div. 2, Div. 3 and Reserve teams) both begin in early February, and coincide perfectly with the new Family Day holiday here in British Columbia. Scouring the preliminary-round fixtures, nothing from the Imperial Cup tickled our interest, so we decided to take in a match from the Division 2 Cup instead (which is sometimes instead known as the “B” Cup – surely a Freudian reference to breasts if I ever heard one!). We were looking for two things: a nice ground that we haven’t previously been to, and the chance of an inter-divisional upset (i.e. a Div. 3 club beating a Div. 2 side).

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kitsilano any more.

After much humming and hawing, we settled upon the majestic sequoia trees of Adanac Park for Killarney Celtic (a Div. 3A team named after the Killarney neighbourhood of southeast Vancouver) versus PCOV Benfica (a Div. 2B squad based in the bohemian Commercial Drive area’s Portuguese Club of Vancouver). Struggling Killarney had finished their league season near the basement of their fourth-tier division, while PCOV Benfica earned a spot near the top of their third-tier group. From the perspective of the Canadian football pyramid, this was a below-par level-8 club hosting a puissant level-7 side. But with the lower-division club playing on its home pitch, and the mightier squad recently pinged by the disappointment of failing to clinch promotion, were we about to witness a cup upset on this unseasonably-sunny winter afternoon?

Portuguese Club of Vancouver, by sillygwailo

Given that our chances of stumbling upon a tea hut that serves Bovril at Adanac Park was less likely than Dick Cheney winning a Nobel Peace Prize, we stopped for some hot beverages on the way to the ground.  We came across a fantastic little café that doubles as a Middle Eastern grocery store (and triples as a Sufi Islam meditation centre, including Whirling Dervishes).  Never a dull day in Vancouver’s Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood.

Whirling Dervishes, by Ago 70.

Arriving at the northeast corner of Adanac Park, the first thing one sees is the Adanac Park Lodge, a 72-bed care home built in 2000.

To its immediate southwest is Taylor Manor, a 98-year-old Tudor Revival building that is currently unused.  Constructed in 1915 and originally known as the “Old People’s Home“, its was renamed “Taylor Manor” in 1947 after ex-Vancouver Mayor Louis Taylor, who died in poverty at age 89. The building was added to the Canadian heritage building register in 1993, and – thanks to an anonymous donation of $30 million – is due to become a housing facility for the mentally ill and homeless in 2014.  The building, which has gone unused for more than a dozen years, is also rumoured to be haunted.

Taylor Manor awaiting repair/renovation, 2013

The only ghosts to be found today, however, were the players exposing their pasty-white winter skin to the elements; and the only people with “issues” were the sad groundhoppers  in attendance.

The park itself features a playground for children, as well as an old field house that contains public washrooms and changing rooms.  Rather handily for the players of today’s match, the changing facilities were closed and padlocked.

Rolling out the red carpet to Vancouver’s sports players.

On the other side of the field house was an energetic collection of older men with thick Eastern European accents, noisily chatting away as they reacquainted themselves in the idyllic park settings.  We initially thought that they might have been hangers-on from one of today’s two teams, but apparently not.

The Gents of Hastings-Sunrise.

South of the field house is the Adanac Park Community Garden, which apparently ruffled a few Hastings-Sunrise feathers (okay, just two people) with its opening in late 2010.

There goes the neighbourhood!

The northwest of the park hosts three grass throwball pitches, while the southwest houses two grass soccer pitches.  Adjacent to the south of the park are the rears of tired-looking, single-family houses; while to the west sits the Adanac Village Co-op, which was opened in 1978.

Adanac Park soccer pitches, viewed from the southeast, with Taylor Manor on the right (panorama photo)

The referee flipped his coin to determine who would start on which side of the pitch, and the match kicked off to deafening chants of “Stewy Woolverton’s Green and Black Army!” (Okay, I might have embellished that part a weeeee bit.)  PCOV Benfica dominated from the very beginning, slotting their first goal just minutes into the match.  A second goal soon followed.  PCOV continued their relentless bombardment of the northern goal, and it became obvious that we would not witness a cup upset on this day.  Luckily the picturesque ground (the north of it, anyway) made up for the one-sided match.

Piece of Portuguese cake (or, the Killarney football famine).

Just prior to half-time, with the scoreline already an unflattering 0-5 for the visitors, a fellow Canadian groundhopper (!!!) pointed out that Killarney only had nine players on the field.  A quick count confirmed it – how had I not noticed this earlier?  I blame the sequoia trees.

View from the west of Adanac Park’s southwest soccer pitch.

And then – the unthinkable happened.  Just as my fellow hopper had considered making an early exit, the lower-division club with a two-man disadvantage and five-goal deficit managed to score.  We had a competitive match once again! (Well, not really, but pretending would make staying outside in the cold of the creeping tree shadows for another hour a more bearable thought.)

Always look on the bright side of life…

The Killarney gaffer had made frantic phone calls for player reinforcements just before kick-off upon realizing that he was short of players – and at half-time, a tall fellow turned up to don the green of the home side.  The combination of a late first-half goal and a late player arrival gave Killarney some optimism, but it was quickly extinguished as PCOV Benfica scored their sixth goal soon after the match resumed, now pummelling the southern goal adjacent to local houses.

Golazo.

Killarney’s newcomer then scored, taking the scoreline up to 2-6.  Perhaps even more respectable was that his girlfriend helped to bring the attendance numbers into double digits.

Fresh legs score Killarney’s second. Meanwhile, a grown man in the background fiddles with a toy helicopter.

But an old-firm club Killarney Celtic is not, and their capitulation continued by conceding another pair of goals to the visitors, for a final scoreline of 2-8 (although the league website lists it as 2-9).  Killarney’s cup run was snuffed out just as unceremoniously as their league performance, thus beginning their agonizingly-long, seven-month close season.  PCOV Benfica advance to the first round proper of the Division 2 Cup, and have been drawn away to fellow Division 2B club Douglas Park Rangers.

Until next time…

I then crossed Boundary Road for a little venture in the suburb of Burnaby’s “Vancouver Heights” neighbourhood, to see if they continued the quirkiness of Hastings-Sunrise.  Affirmative.

Fishing in the suburbs.

Rather curiously, people of “The Heights” love murals…

Look up… waaaaaay up…

…but hate trees.

Arboricide!

Sutherland Turf, North Vancouver

Ground: Sutherland Turf
Location: North Vancouver, British Columbia (Google Maps)
Opened: 2008
Capacity (seated): 75-100? (three terraces of uncovered concrete seating on west side of pitch)

Match: Friends United vs. West Van Royals
Date: Saturday, March 24, 2012
League: Vancouver Metro Soccer League Division 3 promotion playoff (Canadian football pyramid level 8)
Attendance: 20.

Full photo gallery (on Flickr)

It isn’t often that the skies clear for an entire weekend in Vancouver. Sometimes we forget that, located above the loving embrace of those fluffy grey clouds (or those wretched sources of incessant rain, depending on one’s viewpoint) is a sky that offers a magnificant palate of blue. It just happens to be rather elusive, here in Coast Salish territory.

So when the weather forecast trumpeted sunny and clear weather during the first week of spring, a plethora of pasty-white skin emerged from its winter cocoons of parka coats. The region’s denizens gazed lustily into the heavens, awaiting its warm, carcinoma-inducing embrace.

What better way to cherish those magnificent solar rays than to enjoy a local match of outdoor football? And unlike those selfish grass fields, constantly photosynthesizing light for some purpose that nobody quite understands, artificial turf fields are much more thoughtful. Plastic blades, nestled in between the bosom of rubber crumb, gently irradiate heat from below. It’s like a whirlpooth bath… but without the chlorine!

Mmmmm.... plastic...

Mmmmm.... plastic...

And so off we went to Sutherland Secondary School’s turf field, host of the 2011/12 Vancouver Metro Soccer League’s Division 3 promotion playoff, contested between Division 3A runners-up Friends United and Division 3B runners-up West Van Royals.

Friends United vs. West Van Royals

Friends United vs. West Van Royals

The journey to Sutherland Turf from downtown Vancouver winds through Stanley Park (Canada’s largest urban park), and crosses the Burrard Inlet by way of the Lions Gate Bridge (which was opened in 1938, paid for and initially owned by the Guinness family of Irish stout fame).

Lions Gate Bridge, by Reva G

Lions Gate Bridge, by Reva G

The route also passes by the Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) First Nation reserve in North Vancouver, one of several Aboriginal groups based in Metro Vancouver, who speak a language that is distinct from their neighbouring nations.

I wouldn't be very welcoming if I was colonized, either.

I wouldn't be very welcoming if I was colonized, either.

The field sits immediately east of the new Sutherland Secondary School, which was built in 2008. Nestled in a quiet, single-use, residential area in the suburbs, don’t be surprised if you see the odd white-picket fence on your way.

Sutherland Secondary School, clearly lacking in white-picket fencing.

Sutherland Secondary School, clearly lacking in white-picket fencing.

Originally a grass field built in the late 1950s, the pitch’s drainage system had become clogged over the decades, and suffered from waterlogging (thus making it unplayable) during much of the year.  In 2004, the City of North Vancouver began an exhaustive planning process to replace the grass field with artificial turf.  Approximately four years later, in 2008, the new turf pitch finally opened for school and public use.  (If you’re particularly masochistic, you can wade through numerous documents related to the process, including a sports field user analysis report, community survey responses, and even a 32-page transcript of the open microphone session at the town hall meeting. There’s your Saturday night sorted – you’re welcome.)

Photo and rendering of previous grass field. (Rendering copyright © 2008 Catherine Berris Associates Inc.)

Photo and rendering of previous grass field. (Rendering copyright © 2008 Catherine Berris Associates Inc.)

The pitch is surrounded by a narrow running track. To the east is a forested area within Loutet Park (previously logged, but has again become a mature wetland forest) – which, while aesthetically pleasant, tends to swallow any misplaced balls, leading to lengthy stops in play if alternative balls aren’t quickly forthcoming. To the south and north is some additional (although much less dense) tree bordering, but the Upper Levels highway runs fairly close to the northeast corner, occasionally providing some distracting clatter from passing transport trucks.  Numerous walking trails surround the site.

The proverbial one man and his dog - required at non-league matches.

The proverbial one man and his dog - required at non-league matches.

Undoubtedly, the venue would be most picturesque in the summer, when all of the trees would have full foliage (making it somewhat similar to Aarhus Fremad’s Riisvangen Stadion in Jutland, Denmark).  Perhaps the only advantage of witnessing the venue when the trees are not with full foliage is the wonderful view of the North Shore Mountains.

Looking north

Looking north

For spectators, there are three (uncovered) rows of concrete terraces to sit on, providing seating for approximately 75-100 people. There is also some shade provided by the school if you don’t mind standing; but there is virtually no protection from rain.

WAGs, family, and friends.

WAGs, family, and friends.

For those who like to play the game hard, the ground is conveniently located just minutes away from Lions Gate Hospital.

West Van Royals takes ball to the face from close range. No - he didn't require treatment.

West Van Royals' goalkeeper takes ball to the face from close range. No - he didn't require treatment.

The two clubs, playing in different divisions and thus facing entirely different opposition during the season, finished four points apart from each other across the divisional boundary; but perhaps cup play was an indicator of how this promotion match would conclude. As an underdog, Friends United were thrashed 0-8 at home in the Division Two Cup (contested by Div. 2 and Div. 3 clubs) to a high-flying second-division side, whereas West Van Royals were dumped out of the competition by a much more respectable 3-2 away loss, also against a Div. 2 club.

When Friends attack.

When Friends attack.

The calibre of play was much better than I had expected, given this was a match from the eighth tier of Canadian club football. However, it was clear that a mere handful of skilled players from each club carried their side for most of the match, and some of the subs (particularly with Friends United) looked about as fit as a certain Canadian groundhopping blogger who shall remain nameless. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many foul throws in a single match (which is possibly indicative of a particularly good referee – having the… errr… fallopian tubes to call them all).

All-female referee crew. Very few calls were questioned by players.

All-female referee crew. Very few calls were questioned by players.

The match was full of goals. West Van opened the scoring with two, by Mark Cherry and Erik Giezen.

Players react to Erik Giezen's first-half goal.

Players react to Erik Giezen's first-half goal.

Friends United scored their first goal close to half-time, and then an equalizer to ensure that the match would end with some drama.

I'll pretend this was one of Friends United's goals. (Hint: it wasn't.)

I'll pretend this was one of Friends United's goals. (Hint: it wasn't.)

With just minutes from full-time, the referee blew her whistle (oooh aaar!) for an infringement by Friends United #18 inside the box (oooh aaar!). West Van Royals’ Erik Giezen stepped up and duly scored (again) from the penalty kick, giving the Royals a 3-2 lead that would last until the conclusion of the match.

Cue a Craig MacEwen commentary cliché...

Cue a Craig MacEwen commentary cliché...

And so, West Van Royals bounce back up to Division 2 at first attempt (having been relegated at the end of the 2010-11 season), while Friends United remain in Division 3 and will hope to secure automatic promotion next season.

Friends United narrowly miss out on promotion to Division 2.

Friends United narrowly miss out on promotion to Division 2.

Neither Friends United nor West Van Royals are based at Sutherland Turf.  However, if you’re looking to attend a match there, both NVFC Campobasso (recently promoted to Div. 1) and Wickham FC (Div. 2) play the majority of their home league matches there.

Lamenting the demise of Sapperton Rovers (or, how to piss away a century of Canadian football history)

This isn’t a groundhopping review.  It’s a political rant.  Well, more like a whinge, really.

Those of you who read my recent review of Vancouver’s Trillium Park may recall me moaning about Sapperton Rovers (of the Vancouver Metro Soccer League) recently changing their club name to the ridiculously bland, uninspiring and generic “Rovers United” after merging with a Burnaby youth club and then with Vancouver United this past summer.

Why does this development bother me? Because the name “Sapperton Rovers” carries with it possibly more history than any other in British Columbian club football history.

The first recorded association football match played in British Columbia was contested between the Royal Engineers and “New Westminster townsfolk” in May 1862 (some 24 years before the City of Vancouver was incorporated).  The Royal Engineers were known as the “Sappers“, which led to the name “Sapperton” being given to the New Westminster neighbourhood in which they were based.

In the first two decades of the 1900s, a team known as “Westminster Rovers” played in the Vancouver District League, and were fully professional for at least part of their existence.

Vancouver St. Andrews vs. Sappterton AFC, Con Jones Park, 1920 (courtesy Vancouver City Archives)

And in the 1920s, a club called “Sapperton AFC” played to large crowds (including more than 10,000 punters for a match at Con Jones Park, located immediately west of today’s PNE grounds in Vancouver).

Westminster vs. Nanaimo, Con Jones Park, 1932 (Stuart Thomson fonds, City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 99-2629).

Admittedly, the “Sapperton Rovers” of the VMSL was established in 1994; a sagging club was purchased, gutted, and renamed as Sapperton Rovers. It was certainly not a direct continuation of the Sappers, Westminster Rovers or Sapperton AFC.  And there is a roughly 65-year gap between the end of Sapperton AFC and the founding of Sapperton Rovers (so for me to assert that there is a “century” of history here is melodramatic, and is honestly a bit of a stretch at best).

However, it’s still true that whomever created the amateur club back in the 1990s definitely had an understanding of the rich football history of New Westminster, and wanted to ensure that it lived on within a VMSL club.

Rovers United player in 2011-12 season, still wearing "Sapperton" proudly upon his chest (for now).

And that’s why it’s especially sad to see the “Sapperton” being removed from the modern amateur club’s name. While the “Rovers” lives on post-merger, there are probably hundreds of clubs around the world with “Rovers” in their name. “Rovers United” sounds particularly bland, especially as it lacks any sort of geographical identifier (much like if Manchester City and Manchester United were to merge to form a club called “City United”). And in fact, there is already a “Rovers United FC” in existence, in the Caribbean country of St. Lucia.

So too is the new “Rovers United” moniker a loss to the history of the “Vancouver United” name, seeing as a club with the latter name won the VMSL’s Imperial Cup back in 1946.

Surely “Sapperton Vancouver” or “Vancouver Sapperton” would have been a better name for the newly-amalgamated club?  Or possibly even “Vancouver Sapperton Rovers”?   A bit wordy, perhaps, but absolutely teaming with history.

It’s great that many of the Vancouver metro league’s clubs are ambitious, and want to integrate successful youth academies into their fold.  That’s definitely something that helps to change a mere “team” into a club.

But to piss away such rich history, and to perish the name “Sapperton” once again from local football (even if the links between the historical and current clubs were tenuous at best), is a lamentable development.  We hope the decision to rename the club “Rovers United” is re-thought, and that an improved title is awarded, in the near future.

Andy Livingstone Park, Vancouver

Ground: Andy Livingstone Park
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia (Google Maps)
Opened: 1995
Capacity (seated): Unknown (there are three rows of concrete stairs between the western pitch and the field house)

Match: Gastown FC vs. Blarney Stone FC
Date: Friday, September 16, 2011
League: Vancouver Metro Soccer League, Division 3 “B”
Attendance: 10. Other than WAGs/family/friends: 2 or 3.

Full photo gallery (on Flickr)

I’ve noticed a recent trend in the Vancouver Metro Soccer League: new clubs with names rooted in their geographic location.

Gastown FC prelininary kit design sketches (Copyright © Gastown FC)

To me, this is a paramount part of being a proper football club. It might be immaterial, but I don’t think I could ever respect a club that doesn’t have its community in its club name (Arsenal! Rangers! Celtic!), no matter how low down the footballing pyramid that club might be.

Gastown FC kit tag (Copyright © Gastown FC)

I appreciate that many clubs in the lower divisions of Metro Leagues aren’t actually “clubs” – they’re merely teams, and are often only assembled as a chance for a bunch of guys to get some exercise. In fact, team names at this level are often simply tongue-in-cheek puns that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Gastown FC logo (Copyright © Gastown FC)

And while that may be fine for teams that compete within social sports organizations (such as Urban Rec), I’m not sure if I’m happy with silly team names in the Vancouver Metro Soccer League – a competition which is older than most of the players who participate in it.

Match promotion image from 2010 (Copyright © Gastown FC)

So I was pleased to see that joining the ranks of (formerly) Sapperton Rovers and Yaletown FC was Gastown FC, which would compete in the VMSL Division 3 this season. I missed their first match, but when the fixture gods allowed me to attend their VMSL home opener at Andy Livingstone Park, I knew I had to witness this piece of “history” (assuming the team is still around in two years, that is!).

Gastown FC logo on t-shirt (Copyright © 2010 The Ringleaders FC)

First of all: my photos from this match are crap. It was an evening match; and as I discovered after arrived at the ground, my tripod was broken.

Approaching Andy Livingstone Park

The match itself was an uneven contest: Gastown FC delivered a 4-0 rout to the equally-new (pub) team Blarney Stone FC, scoring all four of their “Gastown derby” goals in the first half. Tall centre-backs are a prized asset in the eighth-division of Canadian club football, as are energetic strikers who don’t whince at the thought of 50-50 challenges near goal. Gastown FC had excellent chemistry, and their size and hunger were simply too much for the newly-formed pub team based just down the road to handle.

Match action: Gastown FC vs. Blarney Stone FC

BC Place’s new “crown of thorns” roof could just barely be seen over the top of the trees in the background, and electronically-powered SkyTrain cars roared past the pitch on their journey to and from the Stadium-Chinatown station.

Match action

Andy Livingstone Park, which features the (formerly?) largest artificial turf pitch in North America, is situated between the Gastown and Chinatown/Downtown Eastside neighbours, and is only about 300 metres from BC Place, the new (and former) home of Vancouver Whitecaps. On the pitch immediately east, Rainforest FC and the Caribbean All-Stars (cough) were contesting a VMSL Masters (O-40) Division 3 match.

Match action

Highlight of the night: I probably shouldn’t laugh at poverty and some poor individiual’s misfortune, but seeing a bottle/can collector pinch the plastic water bottle of Gastown FC’s goalkeeper from out of his goal during the match was something I shall never forget. Classic!

Sneaky lady who pinched the Gastown FC goalkeeper's water bottle

Lowlight of the match: arriving to the ground and needing to take a slash, I discovered that the public washroom is only open during a few (daylight) hours each day.  Thus I had to take a more “antiquated” approach to the situation.

Treed horizon

I shall leave a longer review of Andy Livingstone Park as a football venue for another day (likely a daytime match, for photos will be far superior). But for now, congratulations to Gastown FC on their founding, and good luck to them in their inaugural VMSL season. Up The Iron!

Gastown FC scarf (Copyright © Gastown FC)

MATCH REPORT:
Gastown FC website – Recap: Gastown F.C. 4 – 0 Blarney Stone F.C.

Trillium Park, Vancouver

Ground: Trillium Park
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia (Google Maps)
Opened: 2011
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.

Emo command post. Black hair mandatory.

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.

Olympic Village, Vancouver (by Bruce Irschick)

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.

National Avenue, Vancouver

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.

Welcome!

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.

Empty lot

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.

National Works Yard

To the east is a public works yard, has has some fancy architecture and art that is unusual for the area.

Train depot

To the south, a train depot.

Trillium Park as industrial land, facing north (2009, care of Google Maps Streetview)

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.

Encaged.

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.

Former Vancouver Police Department Dog Squad facility, facing south (2009, care of Google Maps Streetview)

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.

Site of future "passive park".

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!

White, black, and blue... lines.

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.

Trillium Park field house.

(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.)

Trillium Park at night, looking west (by wdworden)

The venue also offers a nice view of Vancouver’s condo towers to the west, which is particularly attractive at night.

Area between the two pitches.

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.

Steve Kindel choose his kit (right), while club official eyes photographer with suspicion (left). Some nipples in this photo, as I need more female readers.

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).

VMSL president Ruben Tremarco takes a very important phone call.

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.

Surrey United Firefighters' striker heads the ball toward goal.

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.

Sapperton player leaps up to head the ball, and gets a Delta shoulder in the back for his troubles.

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.

Niall Thompson, former Vancouver Whitecaps and Canadian international striker, gives Surrey their team talk prior to the match.

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 Pacific player with possession.

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.

Hot in black. No, really. It was bloody hot.

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.

Sapperton Rovers (or "Rovers United") kit being modelled.

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.

Richmond FC Hibernians. Not Celtic. Honestly.

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.

Canada Challenge Trophy (formerly known as the Connaught Cup, F.A Trophy, and Carling Cup), which was first awarded in 1913. For the sake of comparison, it is more than twice as old as the NFL Super Bowl (Yank throwball trophy).

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).

"We all dream of a team of David Morris..."

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.

Local scallywags.

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.

WAG seeking cover from the sun under an umbrella.

MATCH REPORTS:
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

FUN FACT: VMSL clubs played competitive matches at Empire Field before Vancouver Whitecaps did.