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Lees Avenue field makes its debut

Photo courtesy of Tina Wallace

AFTER CONSTRUCTION DELAYS and disputes over a dome, the Lees Avenue field is finally ready.

The first game scheduled on the field will take place on Sept. 7, when the Gee-Gees men’s football team takes on the Toronto Varsity Blues. It will be the first time in more than 120 years that the Gee-Gees men’s team play a home game on their campus.

It’s been a turbulent road getting the pitch ready. The University of Ottawa spent $8 million on the project in hopes that the field would be completed in time for the 2012 winter sports season.

In November 2012, there were construction delays and breakdowns in negotiations between the U of O, the City of Ottawa, and Coliseum, a private dome operator.

Because of this, the winter sports season was cancelled, leaving all parties and the sports community out in the cold. In May 2013, the stadium was closed for the entire summer due to ripples in the field, pushing back its opening day even further.

The summer closure of the field forced local amateur football team the Ottawa Invaders to find a new home at Beckwith Park. This was also the Gee-Gees’ home for the past two years as construction at Lansdowne Park forced the team into new digs.

With the return of the Panda Bowl on Oct. 5, this could be the biggest event at the new stadium this year. The Carleton Ravens return to take on the Gee-Gees in men’s football, the first time since the Ravens football program folded in 1998.

The opening of the field provides a number of new options for varsity teams in terms of practising.

For example, instead of having to travel 14 kilometres off campus to the indoor dome at École secondaire publique Louis-Riel, the men’s football team will be able to jog to practice on their new Canadian regulation sized outdoor football field.

The new 3,400-seat stadium won’t just make it easier for the teams, but also for the fans. Previously, if students wanted to see the football team play, they had to head off campus. With a central location, an increase of students at regular season games is to be expected.

This should also free up the backlog of bookings at the Minto Sports Complex.  As the only sports field on campus until this season, it was routinely booked for varsity games, practices, and intramurals for students and community athletic programming.

The impact of the new field has already shown with an increase in the number of outdoor intramurals this fall, including soccer, touch and flag football, ultimate Frisbee and touch rugby.  Hopefully, this will also translate into an increase of attendance to varsity games and an overall support of Gee-Gees.