Football: Home field woes for the U of O

With Ottawa’s historic Lansdowne Park under construction in preparation for future CFL and NASL teams, the Gee-Gees football program will have to say so long to their home stadium for the upcoming season.

While the closure of the stadium for the upcoming year was no surprise, it was just announced in the past week where the Gee-Gees will host their OUA opponents. And it’s been called out-of-the-box and out-of-the-city thinking.

Yes, the Gee-Gees will spend 2012 playing their home games at (drumroll, please) Beckwith Park, just outside the town of Carleton Place. The field, technically located in the hamlet of Black’s Corners, is located approximately 50 kilometres from the campus, and translates into about a 40-minute drive.

While the university is offering shuttles to and from games, the idea of riding a bus for 40 minutes to the middle of nowhere may not have the same allure as the usual university football experience — and when I say the middle of nowhere, I do mean it.

I grew up only 15 minutes away and played youth sports in Carleton Place. Beckwith Park is located on a rural highway, and is even a five-plus minute drive to the nearby town of 9,500. Walking from there is not really an option, so fans hoping to stroll into town to grab a bite to eat or a pint are out of luck.

Aside from the geography, the facility itself presents problems for the Gee-Gees' ability to create an intimidating venue for visiting teams.

Currently, the stadium seats just 400. The university has announced plans to expand seating to 1,500, but that still puts the capacity at well under what the Gee-Gees are used to at Frank Clair. It also won’t rank that highly when compared with their other OUA competitors, as it will be the second-smallest stadium in the conference, beating only Waterloo’s Warrior Field (which seats just 1,100 but can accommodate up to 5,400 as spectators may sit or stand in other locations).

However, the Beckwith field itself is top-notch, and should not present any problems to athletes, with artificial turf similar to the kind used at the Gee-Gees previous stadium and wide areas on the sidelines to ensure player safety.

Luc Gélineau, the sports director at the University of Ottawa, told the Ottawa Citizen that, “This is a very safe field and the team will be able to play there for all the games, and there will be no flip-flopping from site to site. The other thing is that Beckwith Township was very enthusiastic about having us there.”

The Gee-Gees better hope that enthusiasm translates into residents of the surrounding area coming out to support the team, otherwise home-field advantage may be nothing but an expression for the upcoming season. There will be a good test of that support right away, as the Gee-Gees will open their season at their new home away from home on September 15 against the defending Vanier Cup champion McMaster Marauders.
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  1. When I first heard about this, I thought it was dumb. Now, upon learning that the field only seats 400, I think it's even dumber. They might as well have just picked a random high school if that's the case.

    Like honestly what's the difference between Beckwith and, say, Merivale High School, other than that (for starters) OC Transpo buses actually pass by MHS?

  2. And for that matter, is there a reason they couldn't use Terry Fox Stadium at Mooney's Bay?

  3. From what I've heard (which is all second-hand sources), many of the issues stem from the fact that there has to be a certain distance between the sideline and anything else (walls, bleachers, fences, etc.) and very few of the locations in Ottawa meet these guidelines. I don't know if this is true or not, but it's a theory being passed around.

  4. Thanks, Kyle. And fair enough, but (and I realize I'm not arguing with you here) there are TONS of football fields at high schools around the NCR that have *nothing* around them. Like, no stands at all, just maybe a track and then open space for tens of metres.

    Surely putting up some temporary stands (while conforming with whatever rules the need to), some concessions and port-a-potties at such a field makes more sense on almost every level than going to Beckwith.

  5. At least using trailers to change in for visiting teams will be consistent.

  6. Most high school fields are non-starters as they don't use artificial turf and the conditions of these fields are horrible long before the season is over. Terry Fox is the same; great for track but terrible for field sports in the fall. There are a small number of artificial turf fields in the city (e.g. Hillcrest) but all of them are either not available for every required date (thus necessitating jumping from field to field each home game week), or have safety issues. Besides, they would seat even fewer people than the field in Carleton Place.

  7. Thanks, Jason. I didn't know about the artificial turf thing.

  8. Dsaquared---there are great new dressing rooms at Beckwith, inside a new rec complex built at the field.One of the problems at some of the opther options were inadequate dressing rooms.
    There is a dedicated BBQ and picnic area at the park.Local organizations and the Gee-Gees will put on pre-game BBq's (tailgates if you prefer).

    Bleachers will be 1500-paid for by the Gees-Gees to construct.The Gees will also pay for a new press box to meet OUA standards.The Reeve of Becwith Township ( who is a HS football coach) says the grasy knoll on the other side of the field can hold another 1000. He said that local organizations, including minor football, will promote and get locals out. We will see.

    Other options failed to meet OUA standards (dressing rooms,press box and field lighting-Beckwith has lights). Some had safety issues. Many would not allow temporary bleachers or a press box due to concerns. The City of Ottawa was one of those.

  9. This sounds crazy, on the one hand, but it also sounds like a great opportunity to put up some atmosphere. I can't imagine it working all that well but it's part of the wacky mosaic of CIS, I suppose.

  10. Dzuunmod: yes, there are lots of high schools that have football fields in the Ottawa area. You know what else those high schools have? Football teams, that practice and play on those stadiums daily. Given how important consistency of surroundings is to maintaining any kind of home field advantage, it makes more sense to be the permanent occupants of a far-flung field than some nomadic band of wanderers practicing and playing at every high school field within a 30km radius.