Bradford West Gwillimbury: Soccer Town!

Miriam King
Bradford West Gwillimbury: Soccer Town!

Bradford West Gwillimbury: Soccer Town!

Hockey is big. Baseball and softball have a long-standing tradition, and lacrosse is experiencing a renaissance.

But if there was any doubt that Bradford West Gwillimbury is first and foremost a soccer town, that will be dispelled on May 15 and 16.

That's when the Bradford Soccer Club hosts the Bradford Eagles Spring Kick-off Tournament on the playing fields of BWG. Sixty teams have signed up for the inaugural tourney. Over 1,000 players between the ages of 10 and 14 will be coming to Bradford from communities that include Niagara Falls, Whitby, Oshawa, Ajax, Orillia, Toronto and Sudbury, and closer to home - Barrie, Newmarket, Aurora, Innisfil and Bradford itself.

"We're pretty overwhelmed with the participation," says Bradford Soccer Club VP, Patrick Logel. "We didn't set it at 60 teams - it's pretty wild!" He notes that, with coaching staff, parents and siblings, the Tourney could draw 4,000 people to town. "It will be a great thing."

Action will be taking place on the Henderson field, the Bond Head field at Bud Brown Memorial Park, the Magani, Kuzmich and Reeves fields - but not Cericola, at the Bradford Community Centre. That field was recently seeded, and won't be ready for play before May 24, but the Town's Leisure Services department has stepped in to provide an alternative.

The mini fields at Bob Fallis arena will be transformed into a full-sized field just for the tournament, and staff have been rearranging benches and bleachers, to accommodate the games.

It's all part of the new relationship between the club and the Town - a partnership that will see the development of new fields on the Henderson property, and the opening of a Soccer Dome at Bob Fallis this fall.

"We're extremely pleased with the relationship, and the growth of the relationship, with the Town," says BSC president Leon Gibson, praising the efforts of the Leisure services staff to ensure the Tourney goes well. "They're working with us. It's tremendous!"

There's also a new energy within the Club, as a whole. Last year, over 1,100 players registered at all levels, from Timbits to Men's and Ladies' teams. This year, that number already exceeds 1,200. Players are coming from as far away as Newmarket, Aurora and Keswick to play on Bradford teams, attracted by Gibson's vision of soccer development.

"Bradford has always been a decent soccer community," Gibson says - pointing to the "Marshlanders" that played in the professional Canadian National Soccer League in the late 1970s and early 1980s. "Through the years, we've always competed."

And 7 years ago, Bradford hosted the Ontario Cup - with 25 or so top teams coming from across the province.

Even so, the Bradford Eagles Spring Kick-off pre-season Tournament is a first for the Club, and the Town - and already has support from the community. Giant Tiger is providing tents, discounts, and all of the food, condiments and drinks for the Tourney. The Bradford Scouts will be manning the BBQs, and splitting the proceeds with Soccer. Shoeless Joe's restaurant is sponsoring the MVP awards, and setting up a BBQ - but the Club is looking for more support and sponsorship to help cover costs, especially the awards and trophies. A number of sponsorship opportunities are available until May 1; contact Paul Drake or Tracey Lazar at the Bradford Soccer Club, 905-775-7000, for details.

The Club is also hoping that local businesses will catch "soccer fever," offer special deals and sales, and prepare for the crowds on Tourney weekend, May 15 & 16.

- and that residents will come out to watch the action.

And, says Logel, "We're just hoping for good weather."