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Queer soccer leagues work with city to improve public pitch

Withrow Park field will look like new next spring

Credit: Scott Hummel
The Withrow Park soccer field has been given a facelift.
Thanks to the efforts of two queer Toronto soccer leagues, renovations on the busy downtown pitch, just south of Danforth near Carlaw Ave, were completed on Oct 18, with a reopening scheduled for the spring.
The field, which is shared every summer by lesbian soccer league Pink Turf and queer and queer-friendly league Downtown Soccer Toronto (DST), has long been criticized by players concerned about injuries because of its uneven and damaged turf.
“The injuries were mounting due to trips and falls in divots,” says DST operations coordinator Ed Van Ekeris. “I personally was hearing of people not coming back because of the risk of injury.”
The concerns prompted Van Ekeris and the DST executive to look into a solution in partnership with the City of Toronto.
In October 2010, Van Ekeris approached Paula Fletcher, the city councillor within whose ward the park is located, and Collette Martin, the supervisor of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, but was told there was no money for field repairs at the municipal level.
However, a follow-up meeting with Martin and general supervisor Mark Hawkins yielded an improvement plan.
“[We] found an ally, Hawkins, and a deal was struck,” Van Ekeris explains. “DST would donate $5,000 and Pink Turf $5,000, and the city would come up with the rest.”
Both leagues were able to meet their contributions, and with funding secured, the restoration work began in early October.
Contractors levelled the field using 84 cubic metres of topsoil and then put down a layer of Kentucky blue grass. The pitch is currently fenced off to give the fresh roots time to knit, to better hold the turf together.
The field will be reopened when permits are issued in the spring.
“I think it’s interesting to note that when individuals take action . . . instead of just [sending] requests for the city to do something, the city takes the cause more seriously,” says Van Ekeris.