By David VanderWindt who lives near Tim Hortons Field with his wife, 2 kids, and a dog 

Sports….. They unite communities and break down barriers. They push us to be better, developing sportsmanship, friendships, and healthy lifestyles. They are also just plain fun.

All of this is particularly true for local sports, especially for kids. Sports have proven to benefit the mental, emotional, social, and physical health of children (Carleton University, 2014).

Yet in Ward 3 there are painfully limited options for a child to play a sport. There are a few opportunities, but relative to the ward’s population, there are very few, particularly outdoors. Softball in Gage Park, casual soccer on mostly-flat makeshift fields at Gage Park, and a once-weekly summer soccer program at Tim Hortons Field.

The only publicly usable soccer/football field is a small field at Woodlands Park. There are also two immaculate, full-sized soccer/football fields at Tim Hortons Field and Cathedral High School, however, you can’t walk over and start a game as they are locked up. In other wards, large numbers of families are able to rally around their children at sports fields on summer evenings. Kids grow and community is built. . The City as a whole has 368 publicly usable sports fields.

Ward 3 has nearly 8% of Hamilton’s population, and only 1% of the publicly usable sports fields.

There’s hope though. The City of Hamilton is planning a new 5 hectare park, “Brightside Park” near Barton/Gage. What a wonderful opportunity! We can create spaces for youth and adult sports and recreation – a vibrant soccer league with spaces for all ages and abilities (right down the road from our 3 time national championship team, Forge FC), ultimate frisbee, beach volleyball, or perhaps pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Maybe even a dog park where neighbours can gather. And of course; a playground, splash pad, and pavilion.

Yet the current plan suggests only 1 basketball court, and most shockingly, one more locked-up, immaculate, top-tier turf field inaccessible to the neighbourhood. No other sports amenities are planned. That will bring the total number of marked, good condition, soccer/football fields to 3 that will be locked up and not usable, and 1 small field at Woodlands Park.

Amenities for sports would not only empower our community to create youth sport opportunities, it would also make the existing functions in the park safer and more enjoyable. The current design functions much like Gage Park – long treed walkways and open lawns surrounded by trees. Gage Park, despite being in a more animated area, remains a place that many people avoid at night time. This is in part because of the lack of amenities that draw people. Imagine a lighted basketball court or futsal (very small soccer) court at the heart of Gage Park – there would be people playing sports until late at night, providing eyes and ears to the park, and therefore safety. A park north of Barton on Gage will not enjoy near the same amount of foot or bicycle traffic, yet the plan has its few amenities set way back from the road and behind trees.

Contrast the proposed plan with Sam Manson Park (Nash Road), where our son currently plays soccer (we would love to play closer to home in Ward 3). Every night of the week is packed with soccer games, and the playground is therefore packed with soccer siblings. Our daughter runs free around the playground because there are numerous families always keeping an eye out. It’s the sports happening that makes the playground there such a joyful and carefree experience.

Fortunately, there’s still time to improve the design of Brightside Park. Construction is “tentatively” set for 2025. With enough motivation and working together, we have an opportunity to persuade the city to build a park that truly serves the community and gives our youth the opportunities they need. Our youth are our future – let’s give them what they need to thrive.

Please email, call, mail, visit Councillor Nann and Mayor Horwath and tell them how important this is to our community. You can also join “Brightside Park Initiative” on Facebook at Brightside Park Initiative | Facebook . The more voices heard, the more likely it is that we will end up with an amazing park.

Carleton University, 2014.

The impact of sport on the development of children