BRUCEDALE – Wearing bright jerseys, muddy cleats, and soccer socks pulled up over shin guards, athletes of all ages regularly fill the fields at Rockmosa Park, one of two homes of the Rockwood Football Club.
While the players dribble and pass the ball down the pitch, parents and grandparents sit at the sidelines, socializing and cheering on their team.
But once the sun starts to set the fields quickly clear, as without lights the games cannot go on.
Installing lights at the Drexler Soccer Fields would extend the fields’ usable hours and enable Rockwood FC to host weekend soccer tournaments at Rockmosa Park.
At a Guelph/Eramosa meeting on Aug. 14, council voted unanimously to look into the cost of adding lights to the main field and possibly some of the six others on the site.
“Let me just say off the top, they’re pricey,” said Mayor Chris White.
“But when you’ve got nighttime restrictions … there’s less use of the fields. And my objective is to get as much good use of those fields as possible.”
Rockwood FC president Stephen Pullen said lights at the Drexler Soccer Fields “would be enormously helpful” to the club.
With lights, they could run weekend tournaments, which generally run Friday to Sunday with six to 12 teams playing games throughout the days and into the evenings.
“Even if we (only) got lights on the main field, it opens up the doorway for us to promote tournaments, bring other clubs in (and) bring different age groups in,” Pullen said.
Rockwood FC pays the township $70,000 annually for its 561 players to use the Drexler Soccer Fields and the Marden Park Soccer Field.
The Drexler fields are part of the Rockmosa Park expansion that took place over the last few years, with Drexler Construction donating $250,000 to the expansion.
White said reasons for the expansion included pressure from Rockwood FC and a desire to build the local community and boost the downtown economy.
“Having people remain in the community to play soccer” boosts the economy by increasing the number of people buying ice cream, or something at the hardware store, or stopping in at the LCBO, White said.
Hosting tournaments would magnify this economic boost, Pullen and White agree.
Participating players would travel to Rockwood with their families, and “when their game is over, they will go downtown … and they will spend some money, they will get something to eat, and then they will go back for game two,” Pullen said.
Rockwood FC would promote and advertise the tournaments, increasing exposure for the township, he added.
White said lights would expand the potential of Rockmosa Park in other ways too, allowing for evening tobogganing and improving events like Party in the Park.
“To me it seems a shame to build this facility and not fully utilize it as much as we can,” White said.
Rockwood FC could be more aptly named the Guelph/Eramosa Football Club, White said, as many of the players are from rural parts of the township, not just Rockwood.
“You’re getting good use of the Marden facilities,” he added. “And I’m happy they’re out there.”
White said the geography of Guelph/Eramosa makes it hard to come together as a township, but Rockwood FC is “one of those things where you actually see cross-pollination” between Rockwood and the rural areas.
“I think that’s important,” he added
Rockwood FC, a not-for-profit organization managed by a volunteer board of directors, has been around since the early 1970s.
The club has over 100 volunteers, including students earning high school volunteer hours, five staff members, and 10 paid summer student positions.
“As volunteers, it’s tough. It looks easy as you’re watching from the outside, but to have that kind of dedication (takes a lot),” said White. “These things are as good as the people doing them.”
Pullen has been volunteering with the club since he moved to Rockwood 12 years ago and his daughter Kim Pullen-Ripley “roped” him in, Pullen told council..
Kim Pullen-Ripley spoke to council too, and said she has volunteered with Rockwood FC for 17 years, starting as a convenor for the “little under-threes when they used to run over at Valentino Park.”
The club is financed through soccer registration fees, “which we try to keep as low as possible so that it’s affordable to everybody in the community,” Pullen-Ripley said.
“Soccer – it’s good for everybody,” said White, adding it’s fun for all ages and is relatively inexpensive.