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Soccer club hopeful Rainbow board’s $4.1M sports dome will soon be reopened to community

After years of false starts, sports dome finally reopened in February 2020 — it closed a month later due to the pandemic
The Rainbow District School Board’s soccer dome on the Lasalle Secondary School campus.

The president of the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club said the club is hopeful the Rainbow District School Board will soon reopen its indoor soccer bubble to community use.

After numerous false starts, delays, different funding sources and proposed locations dating back as far as 2012, the $4.1-million soccer bubble opened on the Lasalle Secondary School campus in February 2020, to the delight of the local sports community.

However, with the pandemic hitting Canada just a month later, the soccer bubble (known officially as the Lancer Dome, referring to Lasalle’s school mascot) has been closed to community use since that time.

In fact, although community use of school facilities is now allowed by the provincial government with certain restrictions, all four local school boards say their facilities are not open to community use (exceptions were made by the Rainbow board for vaccination clinics and election polling stations).

Although the Rainbow board had originally partnered with the Fabio Belli Foundation on the soccer dome project, a donation pledged by the foundation was not realized, so the school board said it has fully funded the dome itself.

While the dome remains closed to the wider community, the Rainbow board is using the facility for school activities, the board said.

Joe Snofl, president of the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club, said when the soccer dome opened in February 2020, his organization was one of the major tenants, renting the facility at $400 an hour for roughly 20-30 hours per week for both youth and adult programming.

“We had players across all age groups,” he said. “We got about four weeks in, and then COVID hit.”

Since that time, soccer players in Sudbury have been playing outside as well as in gymnasiums (although most of those are school board-owned too) as public health restrictions permit. Snofl said his club had one of its busiest seasons ever this summer.

Greater Sudbury Soccer Club has already pre-registered about 500 players for its indoor league this winter, with the expectation it will be able to hold its programming in the practically brand new soccer bubble.

Snofl said he understands there has been a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, and Rainbow may be in discussions with local public health officials on the matter.

“We remain hopeful it will be open soon, and we’re looking forward to working with Rainbow and continue as one of the main tenants,” he said.

Snofl said the club has players, fans, parents and families “continually asking us what’s up with the bubble … they’re frustrated and disappointed that they’re not open yet.” 

The matter of the soccer dome came up at the Oct. 26 Rainbow District School Board meeting.

Bruce Bourget, the Rainbow board’s director of education, said the board has had several questions on the matter, but at this time has “not made the decision at this time to resume community use.”

A written statement provided by the board said Rainbow this is the case “particularly given the rise in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community,” and that it "continues to monitor this situation.”

He said the board continues to prioritize the use of school facilities for school activities. The soccer dome is used daily by Lasalle students for classes and after-school activities. Elementary students are also now using the dome.

“Flag football games are also being played in the dome, and given the weather, it is greatly appreciated by our staff and students involved,” Bourget said. 

He said that as the board evaluates “the start-up of the school year and the completion of a successful fall high school sports season we will assess if and when it would be advisable to open the dome to community use.”

Bourget added that while school boards are not subject to proof of vaccination requirements for school use, vaccine mandates do apply when community groups are using school board facilities.

The written statement from the board said Rainbow looks “forward to the day when trends in COVID cases may indicate it's time to re-open the dome to local sports groups.”

Snofl, who has played in over-40 and coed adult leagues himself, said having a sports dome “just allows people to stay active during the doldrums of winter.

He said multiple sports can be played there, including not only soccer, but activities such as baseball and ultimate Frisbee.

“It helps Sudbury remain competitive against other jurisdictions, even Sault Ste. Marie, which is a smaller northern city, that has had a bubble for a long time,” he said. “It’s about staying healthy, but also keeping your skills at a high level, and being able to match other jurisdictions.”


Heidi Ulrichsen

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