Night Classic set for record 118 teams
This year, the Camrose Night Classic soccer tournament could set the record for the most teams at the event.
Last year, organizers invited 118 teams, but some had to back out at the last moment. This could be the year they hit the mark.
The 13th annual Night Classic features girls' and boys' teams from U12 to U18 in both Tier 3 and 4 on June 8 to 10. "We increased the number of fields that we can use for U12 teams. Now we can accommodate 36 teams, whereas before, it was less than 30," said Jenn Stone, of the Camrose Minor Soccer Association. "We have to go back to using the Charlie Killam and Camrose Composite High School fields."
Teams start at 6 p.m. on Friday night and play under the lights until about 3 a.m. on Saturday morning. After a short break, the clubs resume play until about 3 a.m. again. The finals in the divisions will be held late Sunday morning with the medal presentations to be held at about 2 p.m.
The Camrose Minor Soccer Association will be playing on nine fields throughout Camrose. About 300 volunteers will pull off this massive tournament. "We are a week behind in scheduling because we have so many teams. We don't want to release it too early because changes are made daily as teams decide if they are entered or not," explained Jenn. "I'm not sure how Don Robinson keeps up with it. It's a big job. All of Alberta is experiencing a lack of referees, so it is tough to ensure we have enough referees for hosting 118 teams. Edmonton and Millet have a tournament the same weekend and it stretches us very thin."
Camrose will field two boys' and two girls' teams in the U12 division. In U14, Camrose will have one boys' team and two girls' clubs. They will have two teams of each in the U16 category. In U18, Camrose will field two girls' teams and one boys' squad. "The only category we don't have a team in is the U18 boys Tier 4 division," said Jenn.
"We struggle to have Tier 3 teams come to Camrose because there are so many other tournaments out there. Tier 4 fills up like gang-busters and some divisions have waiting lists of up to eight teams. There are not very many Tier 4 tournaments around."
Last year a few local teams had trouble finding opponents. "We want our teams in be in the Night Classic because of a pride thing and secondly, because we want our parents here volunteering for us rather than having to drive somewhere else. If you take the parents of the players away, that adds up to a lot of volunteers we lose."
The Night Classic is not just a tournament. "We have a lot of people who love to camp. The campgrounds are divided into tent cities where each mini-community has its own area. We just don't have enough hotel rooms to accommodate everyone," Jenn said.
Lights and referees continue to be the highest cost for the tournament. "One of our biggest expanses is fuel to light the lighting towers. Renting the lights and with referees, it costs us about $2,000 for each field."
The tournament needs 54 referees to handle the number of games and to help avoid injuries from overuse. "Each team is guaranteed three games, one of which will be considered a night game," added Jenn. A game under the lights is the biggest draw the tournament has to offer teams from around the province. "It is unique for the players because they don't usually play at that time. It costs us extra to bring the portable lights, but that is what they come for."
The tournament will be using mostly the six fields at Rudy Swanson Park, one at Harry Andreassen Field and two at Jack Stuart School.
Jenn said it takes a lot of work to host the Night Classic, but it is worth it in the end when the players go home with lasting memories of Camrose.