By Mark Squibb/October 14, 2022
Football may not be Newfoundland’s premier sport, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell that from attending Friday Night Lights in Paradise last week.
The Town hosted a kick-off celebration to mark the official opening of the multi-sport turf at Dianne Whalen Memorial Complex, complete with a marching band, mascots, dance routines, and, of course, a game between the Paradise Pirates and CBN Warriors.
“Recreational facilities and sporting programs play a big part in building community pride and spirit,” said Mayor Dan Bobbett. “And we can certainly see that in Paradise. Our town has a strong minor sporting program, and we rally around our house league teams. We eagerly follow when Paradise teams play in tournaments. And we cheer with pride when our local athletes make provincial and national teams. We love to watch and follow our local sporting teams, and it’s often a reason to come together as a community. And now we have this new facility, our new multi sport turf field, as a place to watch some great local sports action.”
The Town of Paradise marked the start of construction of the field, a $2.5 million project that it undertook without any government funding, in November 2021, and expect soccer, baseball, and football teams to avail of the facility.
“When we were planning for this project, we were envisioning a night like tonight,” said Bobbett. “To see it come to reality is truly rewarding.”
The mayor also threw a bouquet to the Town’s Infrastructure and Engineering Team.
“Completing a project of this magnitude throughout a pandemic with labour shortages and supply chain issues has been incredible,” said Bobbett. “Thank you all for your hard work in bringing the turf to this complex.”
Bobbett called the field an important investment, and just the first of more upgrades to come to the complex. He hoped the field will allow Paradise to host national, and even international tournaments.
“The benefits reach far beyond junior sports,” said Bobbett. “We are excited to be on this turf, and we are excited that this has become a reality.”
The field was planned and designed in partnership with the minor sports groups in Paradise.
“When we were approached about a year-and-a-half ago to have some input on this field, I felt a little bit out of place because I’m a small fish in a big ocean,” said Brian Critch of Avalon Football. “But to be appreciated, and have some input on this field, meant a lot to Avalon Minor Football. Paradise is our fastest growing association within Avalon Minor Football, and your Paradise Pirates are right here tonight, and so on behalf of Avalon Minor Football, I would like to say thank you very much.”
Representatives of Paradise Soccer Club and Paradise Minor Baseball were also in attendance.
“Having a higher calibre facility like this turf field will attract a higher calibre of play, a higher calibre of tournaments and, ultimately, draw more visitors to our town,” said Fred Zillman of Paradise Minor Baseball. “Paradise Minor Baseball is fortunate to have built a great relationship with the Town of Paradise. We would not have the fastest growing female program and be the second largest baseball association in the province without their support.”
Laurie Kennedy of Paradise Soccer Club also addressed the crowd.
“As a representative of the Paradise Soccer Club executive and a resident of this town, I’m very pleased, and proud, to be standing here today at the Diane Whalen Memorial Soccer Complex for this opening ceremony,” said Kennedy. “The Town of Paradise is one of Atlantic Canada’s fastest growing municipalities, and as a result has seen remarkable growth within our youth community. Our soccer association is a testament to this, with membership reaching over 1,500 in 2022, making us one of the largest youth soccer associations in the province, and one of the largest sports organizations in the town of Paradise. This new turf field is a welcome and needed addition to the existing infrastructure in the town of Paradise, and will enhance our soccer programing and offerings for our growing membership.”