After decades as a primary user of both Rotary Park and McAdam Park, the Cowichan Bulldogs football teams say they have had their Wednesday night practice times at Rotary Park taken away to make room for a men’s soccer team.
The football organization says that a City employee who allocates the fields opted to give the prime 5:30-7:30 p.m. slot on Wednesdays to the soccer team that he plays for, rather than the Bulldogs, who have used both fields for decades.
"They have told us that it isn’t fair that a small user group – under 100 – control the field use," said Doug (Opie) Williams, the coach of the midget Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are allowed to continue using McAdam Park, but without the overhead lights, it will soon be too dark and unsafe to practice on, Williams noted.
"Football is a sport that needs more practice time than playing time," he said. "Wednesday night is our main practice night."
In a letter to Mayor Phil Kent, Chief Administrative Officer Peter de Verteuil and city council that was also forwarded to the Citizen, former Bulldogs player and coach Chad Rutherford expressed his frustration with the process.
"I cannot stomach that a City of Duncan official has seemingly used his influence and displaced a 30-plus-year tenant of the Rotary fields in Duncan, a pillar youth minor sports association, for his own entertainment," he said.
Rutherford pointed out that Cowichan Football, and in particular former president Jeff McDonald, played a key role in helping to secure funding for upgrades to Rotary Park, which were completed just this summer.
Although football games cannot be played on Rotary Park due to it being too narrow and lacking uprights, the field makes an ideal practice facility, he noted.
In a response to Rutherford’s letter, also forwarded to the Citizen, de Verteuil said the City is trying to sort out the booking issue.
"I am saddened that you believe that a City employee (and as a result, the City) has purposefully displaced Cowichan Football for their own benefit," he wrote.
De Verteuil also noted that staff had recently met with representatives of Cowichan Football, and that there had been no mention of the claims that a City employee had allocated fields for his own purposes.
"I understand there was some confusion with bookings this year, and that staff have attempted to accommodate all users of the field," he said. "The City values Cowichan Football and will continue to work to resolve the Wednesday practice time issue."