We in this community must consider ourselves fortunate to have some of the finest facilities that may be found anywhere in this province and, yes, even in the Maritimes. These, in many cases, are exactly what are needed to accommodate the myriad of programs that are offered for all ages.
Our $14-million, environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art "city hall" is definitely in a class by itself. It not only provides marvelous working conditions for the town's administrative staff, but it also houses a modernized police force with suitable training opportunities. And, of course, it is the home of what has been voted Sackville's number one service, the volunteer fire department.
The $4-million Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre, while not as complete as many would have preferred, offers a perfectly lighted regulation ice surface for boys and girls and men and women of all ages. The mezzanine and meeting room above are well organized, while David Wheaton offers a well-stocked cafeteria for the use of fans.
The Sackville Memorial Hospital, one of last to be built when the Hatfield government seemed to be flush with money, is definitely a centre of pride, offering many services, including surgery with 1,000 procedures taking place each year. The atrium adds that extra little touch for both in-patients and visitors, something few other facilities of its kind can provide.
Our three schools seem adequate, although a couple of them are showing the wear and tear of use. Marshview, formerly the high school, is approaching 55 years of age, while Tantramar is a little over 40, and Salem is the baby of the lot and continues to exude a fine reputation. Each has a gymnasium where local boys and girls practice and play their basketball games.
Mount Allison University brings an extra sense of entitlement with a fine swimming pool and a host of aging athletic facilities that are available to the public.
There are many other positives to be said about similar opportunities locally. But the absence of decent fields for lacrosse, soccer, football and baseball leave a huge gap that do not seem on the agenda of our elected politicians. We will shortly have an outstanding facility for our smallest people, a vastly upgraded Bill Johnstone Memorial Field in the centre of town and we recently received a quality ramp for our boaters at Silver Lake. But, again, our hundreds of spring, summer and fall young people must scramble to find some place to practice and prepare for competition against teams from away.
This need was emphasized again during the annual meeting of the local lacrosse association when president John Higham stressed that the lack of a suitable field could place development of a strong field lacrosse team on hold, even though steps have been taken to move in that direction.
One might point out that Mount Allison has four fields – two for football, one for soccer and another, Normandy, that is rarely used. It is natural they don't want the first three damaged with constant use, while Normandy is unsuitable for many activities due to it proximity to the waterfowl park and water hazards. Tantramar High has an acceptable playing field and a partial field for practice at the rear of the school. But that doesn't leave a whole lot for minor football, minor soccer and lacrosse.
Football people say they use a "knoll" behind the civic centre, which is not of regulation size and offers hazards with its uneven surface. This leaves only the Lorne Street Field, which is often unusable due to its low elevation and proximity to Lorne Street. Soccer, due to numbers, could be in even deeper trouble, while lacrosse can forget about field lacrosse and stick to the box game in the civic centre but this leaves a gap. The baseball people were stymied in efforts to expand their program to include the next level due to a lack of a field to accommodate the bigger and older boys.
Higham believes there should be two more fields, one of grass and the other astroturf or similar material so play could begin earlier and end later with the usual Sackville weather having little effect
To get back to the lacrosse organization, plans are in the works to launch the spring program in mid-April and continue until mid-June, serving as the transition game between hockey and basketball seasons to soccer and baseball. Of course the games will be held in the civic centre as the players could not get on the Lorne Street field at that time of year.
During the AGM, Higham was re-elected president, with Tyler Goodwin becoming vice-president. Past president is Dorothy Zoellner, secretary is Robert Wells and Shane Carroll will serve as treasurer. Directors elected are Kevin Estabrooks and Jeff Tower.
The program operates on a budget in the area of $11,000, with most of it coming in the form of registration fees. Returning players pay $150 and first timers pay $100. Competition is offered in novice, pee wee, bantam and, possibly, midget. Tykes may join and receive training from qualified coaches.
Higham told the meeting that lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in Canada and that local results are more than encouraging. Ten local players have already been selected to perform on provincial all-star teams in national competitions. Roughly 60 boys and girls participate in the local club and it's expected many more would be interested in joining when the field game is offered.
It is obvious that many demands are placed on our local government but in view of the hundreds of young local athletes wishing to participate in the various field games we at The Write Call would ask that more serious consideration be given to development of a couple of new fields, one, hopefully being an all-weather field. It now, in hindsight, seems that construction of a proposed field a few years ago to accommodate the World Youth Track and Field Meet would have solved many long-term needs. So, placing this on the agenda should be high on the list of our council's wish list.