Why Whitehorse Needs an Indoor Soccer Centre

This page is perhaps unnecessary after the March 2001 release of Needs Analysis For Indoor Soccer in Whitehorse. Phase 1 Final Report. (1.4 MB Word document.) There is a little information here which did not make it into the report. And it is good to keep the page just to show how far we have come since the last update, November 25, 2001.
Rapid Growth of the Youth sport


Girls enjoying an indoor centre
Due to the large and rapidly increasing demand for youth soccer opportunity there is a critical need for indoor playing surfaces. In its 1998-99 indoor season the Whitehorse Minor Soccer Association registered more than 470 players. This was the first time that indoor soccer registrations surpassed those for minor hockey. For the 1999-2000 season, application forms were not distributed in the schools and although a decline in numbers was expected, there was a slight increase to 482 players.

Gym shortage

All games are now played in gymnasiums. There is great demand for gymnasium space in Whitehorse and the demand is greatest for the larger gyms which are more suitable for soccer, especially for the older ages. WMSA is already the single largest consumer of gym time in the city, using almost every gym four nights a week, from October to March. Because of the shortage, WMSA also rents gymnasium space from Yukon College, several nights a week. There is no gym time left in the city during the desirable Monday to Thursday period, and on the other days the available space is limited. The Yukon Soccer Association representative teams already use the preferred gyms at the preferred hours for team practices on weekends. Also, weekends are often booked by the schools or Yukon College themselves for their own activities or for special events.

Weekend Play

Starting with the 1999-2000 indoor season, the league is now using gyms on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. This has been required not just because of growth, but also because the league has fewer of the desirable Monday to Thursday hours available. More space is urgently needed for youth soccer in Whitehorse.

Domino Effect

The growth of WMSA has impacted other user groups which now find themselves with fewer gym hours than they have been used to. The shortage can only get more severe. An indoor centre would pull most if not all soccer out of the gymnasiums and would free up a great amount of time for other groups. Currently WMSA is by far the largest single gym user in Whitehorse. The adult basketball and volleyball leagues which compete with WMSA for space would have an easier time getting better hours. The need for a flexihall in the proposed Whitehorse multiplex would be diminished.

Safety

A proper soccer centre would improve athlete safety. Currently many indoor players suffer impact related injuries from gymnasium flooring. Youth develop bad backs, knees and ankles from running on coated concrete throughout the winter. A dedicated indoor facility would have an impact absorbing artificial turf system. In the Alberta facilities there are no reports of impact injuries.

The media is now reporting on the danger of the Vanier floor, and on the range of flooring related injuries experienced by the high school students: Gym floor spurs safety concerns (Whitehorse Star, April 29, 1999)

Bleachers or Boards

The arena style facility with boards offers more consistent and enjoyable play. There is a regular surface for rebounding the ball and the rounded corners keep the play moving. In the gyms, youth currently need to dodge trampolines and mats, and to fetch balls from behind bleachers in the course of a game. The balls bounce in unexpected directions off climbing apparatus and door jambs. There are traffic jams in the corners. Players injure themselves by kicking or tripping over obstacles. Soccer associations which have moved from the gyms to centres report tremendous user satisfaction.

Team size

The ideal team size in gymnasium soccer is 8. In 1998-99 the 47 WMSA indoor teams had an average of 10 players and some divisions had eleven which was too many to give each youth much playing time. For 1999-2000 WMSA set a maximum team size of 9, and a minimum of 7. In the arena style game, teams are 15-18 players. By having more players per coach, fewer coaches are needed, and league administration is simplified.

Scheduling

Gym space has to be reserved with the City in early June. We learn who gets what time in which gyms only at the end of August. WMSA needs to do its scheduling before the fall registration in early September, because parents need to know when their youth play, to avoid conflicts with other activities. WMSA programming would be improved with earlier knowledge of gym availability.

YSA and Indoor

Besides WMSA there are four other organized soccer groups in town which would benefit from an indoor soccer centre. The Yukon Soccer Association uses gyms for several of its programs. There are around 135 youth involved in the Developmental Teams programs. These teams use local gyms for training during the long months when the fields are unusable. YSA runs the Yukon Indoor Championships each year in March for the territory's soccer-playing youth. The tournament involves all of the WMSA teams as well as many from the communities. The developmental team activities and the Yukon Indoor Championships will benefit from having a dedicated facility.

Men and Women Indoors

The Men's Soccer League has about 120 players, the Women's Soccer League has about 100 players, and the Masters about 35. Neither the Men's or Women's league currently runs indoor seasons partly because there is no suitable gym time available. There was a Mens Indoor league in the 80's and there is demand among adults for indoor soccer. A men's "oldtimers" group has been running twice weekly for about a decade. The Men's league uses Vanier Large from 8-11 on sundays for pick-up. The new Coed league uses Selkirk 6 hours a week. The Yukon Selects practice once a week.

November 1999 reckoning of soccer gym hours

Minor 52
Coed 6
Old Timers 4 (not the same as Masters)
Men 3
Selects 3
Gary 3 ( a minor coach's practice time -- there may be others)
YSA Rep Teams 12
Canada Games 5 (2 teams)
AWG 10 (4 teams)
Total = 98 hours

The Spectators

Many spectators attend WMSA league games and the YSAtournament games in the gyms. In every gym the fans must trek across the playing surface in muddy and snowy footwear. This deposits debris and water on the floors. The debris causes damage to the flooring and the water creates a slippery surface. The number one cause of gymnasium accidents is wet floors. Additionally, fans must cross the playing surface during games just to get to the seating area, to leave, or to use the washroom. In Vanier large the gymnasts continually come through the gym during games to get water and use the washrooms. In many gyms the fans sit on the stage, which is behind a goal, and they risk being struck by an errant shot. In a dedicated soccer facility, the fans do not enter the playing surface. Instead, the parents, siblings, grandparents, team sponsors and others who enjoy coming to the games have separate seating similar to that in an arena.

The Size Advantage

There are important advantages to a soccer centre over a gymnasium relating to the size of the playing area. Some gyms in town are too small for soccer but no gym is too large. Adults and older-age youth require a larger area than most gyms provide. In WMSA action, the nature of the game changes dramatically with the gymnasium. Teams complain, justifiably, when the schedule puts them into the smaller gyms more often than their competitors. In the fall 1999, the 15U were playing in both the smallest gym, Holy Family, and the largest, Yukon College. The sport is more enjoyable for players and fans when there is more room. Also, the larger the area, the closer the game resembles the outdoor version.

Competitive Edge

A large facility for soccer can help the territorial representative teams better prepare for outdoor tournaments because of the ability to better mimic full-field situations. When Yukon teams go to tournaments in early spring in the Lower Mainland, the outdoor season there is just ending while our outdoor season is just beginning. The BC teams have an advantage.

The Indoor Wave

The arena style of indoor soccer is fast becoming the standard in Canada. In Alberta, every major city has a soccer centre in operation, in development or in planning. Calgary, Lethbridge, Edmonton and Medicine Hat already have centres. In Edmonton a second fourplex should be complete in 1999, duplexes have been approved for Strathcona and Red Deer, a duplex is under discussion in St. Albert and planning is afoot in Grande Prairie. Centres are becoming a part of the winter recreation profile throughout Canada. It is not unrealistic or out-of-the-ordinary to envisage a centre in a city like Whitehorse with a long winter, high interest in soccer, and a recreation minded population.

Canada Winter Games

In the not to distant future, indoor soccer may become a part of the Canada Winter Games. The Canadian Soccer Association has in fact recently proposed to the Canada Winter Games Committee that indoor soccer be included. In many places in Canada, as in the Yukon, it is now the number one winter youth team sport.

Climbing Wall

Indoor soccer centres normally have large unused interior walls. The Climbing Association of the Yukon is in need of a large indoor wall on which to develop an artificial rock face. The Association provides climbing skills and safety training as a public service for this growing sport. In Whitehorse, an indoor centre could serve rock climbing as well as soccer without conflicts of space. Bringing more users into a facility can help lower costs for everyone.

The Climbing Association of the Yukon brought a small wall into service in 1998 on the stage in the FH Collins gymnasium. This has limitations with regard to the number of users, and the types of training which can be done. Emilie Tremblay's wall began being used in 1999, and as a result the school took the gym out of the joint use agreement with the city, which means one less gym for soccer and other community uses. The Vanier wall is rarely used because of the conflict with other sports and the time needed to install and remove the protrusions. An advanced, permanent wall would not only give climbers, including school climbers a better venue, it would relieve some pressure on the gyms.

Other Turf Uses

In other parts of Canada, centres feature ultimate (frisbee) and flag football leagues playing on their surfaces. The Calgary Soccer Centre has a huge seniors lawn bowling league which operates in the afternoons. In Halifax they play lacrosse and field hockey. In early spring baseball teams practice indoors in Lethbridge.

Beyond the Turf

In summer in Alberta some centres pull up the carpet and run both floor hockey and roller hockey leagues. In Ancaster, Ontario, they put Sportcourt flooring on top of the turf for roller hockey. In Medicine Hat, the rodeo association puts down earth and uses the area for equestrian activities. Last December 31, the Lethbridge Centre featured a New Year's Eve party for a thousand Mormons. Calgary has had auto shows and an international 8-ball tournament.

An indoor centre would also be important to Whitehorse for non-sporting uses. The large indoor space can be used for conferences, trade shows, Frostbite, or the Fulda dinner. The Remembrance Day ceremony and the Spruce Bog are now too large for the gymnasiums in the city.

Not If but When

With the rising tide of indoor soccer in Whitehorse, the proliferation of indoor centres in southern communities, and a growing awareness that the sport is a key part of our city's recreation profile, the question about an indoor centre in Whitehorse is not If but When.

Indoor Centre Main  What is an Indoor Centre?  Other Indoor Centres
Work to Date  Lethbridge Photo Tour  Alberta article
Soccer Umbrella

Last updated 25 November 1999
D. Hitch