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.