Ryerson’s five-year search for a closer soccer field continues

Going to school in downtown Toronto has many advantages, but finding close fields for Ryerson’s soccer teams is not one of them.

Ryerson’s athletic department was fortunate that a portion of the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs became available in 2011, leading them to unveil what is now the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).

While that means that the basketball, hockey and other indoor teams have access to a state-of-the-art facility, it is proving harder to find a space for the soccer teams to call home. A professional stadium is not falling into their laps any time soon.

Ryerson men’s soccer team playing at Allan A. Lamport Stadium in Toronto. (Ryersonian File Photo)

Ivan Joseph, Ryerson’s director of athletics and coach of the women’s soccer team, said that finding a new home for Ryerson soccer has remained a priority for the school.

“We’re always looking at partnerships and opportunities that come our way,” Joseph said.

“We’ve tried to partner with the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic School Board in order to share facilities, and we continue to look at opportunities that might present themselves.”

Currently, the men’s team practises at Downsview Park, which is about an hour commute from Ryerson or a 35-minute drive. The women’s team splits its time between Monarch Park Stadium and Regent Park’s athletic grounds.

Regent Park is a closer location, a 20-minute walk or 12-minute commute on public transit from the university, making it a quality candidate to become a Ryerson home field.

Unfortunately, Joseph said that the school has been unable to form a partnership with a park that gets plenty of booking opportunities. The team only gets to practise there once a week.

“Right now, if you go down to Downsview, it adds two hours to your day at least, by the time you go there and back,” said Joseph. “By the time you have a two-hour practice, another two hours you do your rehab…your evening is spent.

“It’s not very conducive of being a quality student-athlete or a high-performing athlete, period,” he said.

Travelling to Regent Park from Ryerson is a significant difference compared to travelling to Downsview Park from the school. Commuting to Monarch Park Stadium is between 33 and 45 minutes.

As Joseph said, adding travelling time for students who are already busy with their studies, work and home lives, doesn’t leave much time for athletes on the soccer team.

Finding a field closer to campus where the school teams could practise and play permanently would go a long way to taking that burden off these student-athletes.

However, it hurts the team in more ways than one.

Joseph said the team was having to share the field for practices when the women’s team was exclusively at Monarch Park, which is why they decided to split the teams’ practices between two different fields.

“Can you imagine if we told the basketball team they only had half the gym? That just doesn’t work,” Joseph said. “So after the first year, we moved to two different locations to accommodate us, and it’s worked a lot better.”

Having the team play so far away also hinders its ability to grow in popularity among Ryerson students.

While students can catch a Rams home basketball game after class by walking to the MAC in five minutes, they have to trek anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to see the soccer teams play, and that includes switching public transit vehicles.

“You can’t expect students to stay around and come back when you’re an hour away from campus,” Joseph said.  “The ones that come out are die-hard fans, so that’s a nice pleasure to see.”

As for right now, Joseph is looking to find a closer home field so students won’t have to add to their busy travel schedules and fans can come out and support the team.

“We’re looking to find one any time there is one available. I can’t tell you how soon, but we are always looking…we’ve been looking for the last four or five years.”

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