Dakota Collegiate’s historically undersized field has been renovated and renamed the Murray Field, allowing the school to have its first home games in 54 years.
On Sept. 28, the field was officially opened with St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes, as well as Couns. Janice Lukes and Mike Pagtakhan present. Many twists occurred along the way to getting a new field.
“Our school was founded 54 years ago. When they built this school, they put in a grass field at the time, but the field was built over a dump for rubble for new homes in the area,” Robbie Mager, vice-principal at Dakota Collegiate, says.
Wear and tear from students playing on the field led to rubble coming to the surface, making play less safe, he says.
The vice-principal notes that the field was not Canadian Football League or FIFA regulation size, meaning sports teams at Dakota Collegiate had to hold their home games elsewhere.
In 2014, an alumnus approached individuals at Dakota Collegiate about bringing basketball coach Ken Carter, an inspirational speaker, to the school, Mager says. The alumnus was also interested in fundraising for a cause, rather than just having a stand-alone speaking event.
At this point, Mager says he, along with the alumnus, principal Jill Mathez and math teacher Dean Favoni, started brainstorming what they could raise money for. The plan for field renewal was the end result.
“It was to address a need of a population that needed recreational space and also to address the needs of the changing diversity of our student population,” Favoni says, noting that the share of students from newcomer families has increased over the years.
The new field area has a cricket batting cage, and the field will be used for soccer, football, rugby, field hockey, Ultimate and for physical education classes. There is a basketball court and plans for an Indigenous gardening centre and learning centre as well.
Maleski, an alumnus of Dakota Collegiate, says there is a lot of support for community fundraising for the field.
“It’s (the field) being used a lot,” she says. Maleski notes that she always sees people using and playing on the new field and believes the renovation is long overdue.
Maleski, who graduated from Dakota Collegiate in 1966, notes that rubble protruding from the field meant that students would have to go to St. Vital Park for things like running and football.
She notes the unusability of the old field for most activities remained an issue when her children, now adults, went to the school.
Mager notes that there has been extensive private and public funding for the field. The past NDP provincial government committed $1 million to the project, which was overturned by the Conservative government elected in 2016.
After this, Mager says the alumnus and the Louis Riel School Division offered assistance finding new funding sources, which include communities, businesses and families.