Wanderers hoping majestic natural grass field brings ‘home advantage’

Alana Tapper on the Wanderers pitch with some of her team. From left to right, Bob Daniels, Patrick Dixon and Matt Giles.

When the HFX Wanderers kick-off the new Canadian Premier League season at home next spring it will be on a stunning natural grass field at an historic downtown venue.

The pitch at the charming Wanderers Grounds has been getting rave reviews from those who have played on it, with representatives from German club Fortuna Düsseldorf among those impressed.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” said Alana Tapper, who leads a team of experts looking after the field.

Getting compliments on the quality of the pitch has been encouraging for her team.

“A lot of great comments, a lot of people just really excited to be playing on this type of field in the heart of downtown,” said Tapper, the Superintendent of Parks West for the Halifax Regional Municipality, who maintain the field.

‘It’s one of the attractions of the club’

The majority of teams in the new Canadian Premier League are expected to play on artificial turf when play gets underway next spring, so Wanderers coach Stephen Hart sees the grass pitch as an asset.

“Players out there want to play on grass,” Hart said. “For me the game was meant to be played on grass.” 

The Wanderers boss believes natural grass pitches favour players who like to dribble and take people on, making the point the game has a different flow and rhythm on grass.

“It’s fantastic,” he said, “It’s one of the attractions of the club.”

Pitch inspected daily by a specialist team

While sports have been played at the Wanderers Grounds for more than 100 years, the beautiful grass pitch at the stadium is still reasonably new having been reconstructed last year.

It’s made up of a blend of bluegrass which was set down on a new sand base last fall for improved drainage.

Fortuna Düsseldorf U21 players got to play on the Wanderers Grounds pitch against a team of HFX Atlantic Selects in July.
Fortuna Düsseldorf U21 players got to play on the Wanderers Grounds pitch against a team of HFX Atlantic Selects in July.

Tapper’s team inspect the pitch every day with turf and soil specialists checking it on a weekly basis.

“I have such an amazing team that I work with we’re out here daily, they’re checking the field measuring moisture content, looking for little things so that we can be proactive, Tapper said.

Boss hoping grass field brings Wanderers home advantage

Originally from Nova Scotia, she’s feeling pride to be a part of helping the Wanderers get ready to represent Halifax in a new national league.

“It’s very exciting and I think everyone is really optimistic about this and what it will bring to Halifax and the fan base has been amazing. There has been so much support from the community,” she said.

Only a couple more events are scheduled to take place on the pitch before Tapper’s team close it down for the season and begin their winter maintenance program.

Initially the field will not be covered but that may happen later in the season to promote growth a little earlier in the spring.

Wanderers coach Stephen Hart, who is still busy trying to find players for his team, can’t wait for them to play on it. “We may have a slight advantage at home,” he said.

Tapper is hoping the pitch turns heads across the country when the league gets underway.

“I don’t think you find a lot of venues like this, she said. “It feels so intimate, it just makes for a really exciting sports venue for everyone.”