On Monday, a UBC football player tripped in a small pothole and suffered a second-degree ankle sprain while practicing.
“It’s one of the worst facilities for football at any university in Canada. It’s actually unsafe,” said head coach Shawn Olson of Thunderbird Stadium.
After many years of promises, help is on the way. UBC’s Property and Planning Committee gave full approval to install a turf field at Thunderbird Stadium.
The $2.6 million project will see the grass of Thunderbird Stadium ripped up in late April and replaced with a synthetic turf field. Dan Cooper, Facilities Manager of Thunderbird Stadium, said that UBC Athletics will decide within the next month whether to go with Field Turf, PolyTan or Astroturf for the stadium, which is expected to be ready by the time training camp begins for the men’s football team in early August.
“It’s massive,” said Olson. “Absolutely massive on so many fronts…from a recruiting perspective, it’s one thing to watch a recruit on the field and they see a pothole, or they see a nice turf field with a huge thunderbird logo in the middle.”
“Around the league and with alumni, it’ll be huge as well, because I think the perception is that nothing’s been done for football for a while, and I think that will change as soon as the ground is broken.”
It’s a perception that has a fair bit of truth to it. While Athletics has spent millions on Thunderbird Arena, a baseball field, a track field and installation of turf fields for soccer, the football program has languished in recent years.
Critics of UBC’s Athletics Department have pointed to the lack of attention placed on the football program as a reason for its struggles over the last few years. The team has won one playoff game in the last decade, and coach Ted Goveia was let go last fall after a third straight season in which the T-Birds didn’t make it to the playoffs.
Following Goveia’s dismissal, Athletic Director Bob Philip promised the field would be installed and while detractors pointed out the promise had been made before, this year he came through.
The decision also means the end of concerts at Thunderbird Stadium. Radiohead, REM, dozens of Warped Tours and plenty of different festivals have graced the stadium overthe years. Olson, himself a student at UBC in the 90s, admitted the decision was unfortunate.
“There’s been some great memories here…I remember some Arts County Fairs, Edgefests, all kinds of Lollapalooza stuff,” he said.”It’s bittersweet.”
The turf also secures the future of Thunderbird Stadium, built in 1967, for the foreseeable future. Tentative plans by UBC had marked the area the stadium sits on for market condos, with a smaller football stadium built at a different location on campus.
“I love Thunderbird Stadium,” said Olson. “I think it’s one of the coolest stadiums in all of Canada. I tell recruits it’s got a lot of history, a lot of nostalgia. It just needs some TLC.”