Field of dreams, or dreaming?

In the 1989 film Field of Dreams, the character played by Kevin Costner is told by a mysterious, disembodied voice, “If you build it, he will come.” The line has become a catch phrase, most often altered to “they” will come.

That is the question residents of Parksville, Qualicum Beach and the Regional District of Nanaimo’s rural areas may have to ask themselves if the RDN chooses to advance one or more of several sports and recreation facilities.

When it comes to youth sports tournaments and championships, the recent weekend tells us that, yes, they will come. On the same weekend, the Oceanside Minor Lacrosse Association hosted 30 teams of players for the Provincial Box Lacrosse championship tournament and the Oceanside Minor Softball Association hosted 16 teams in the U16-B Provincial Softball Championships.

The youths, of course, travel with wallet-carrying parents and other family members who spend several days — and more than several dollars in area hotels and restaurants while cheering on the kids.

They’re just not spending much of it here.

Because of the number of lacrosse boxes needed to host a tournament the size of last weekend’s provincials, the local association partnered with Nanaimo Minor Lacrosse, which held some of the games at Nanaimo Ice Centre. While most of the games — and all of the medal finals — were held at Oceanside Place, one local official confided that the majority of families stayed in Nanaimo, “because we don’t have the hotel rooms available.”

In the case of the softball tournament, the lack of local fields meant the entire tournament had to be played in Nanaimo, so there was no local economic bump whatsoever.

In announcing the Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association has event support equipment available for groups hosting sporting events, director Blain Sepos said, “We have a sports tourism strategy that we’re looking to support.”

But where will these sporting events be held?

Parksville Qualicum Beach has several fine recreational facilities for local youths to play and train at. But, with the possible exception of the arenas at Oceanside Place, they are not suitable to host substantial competitive events — and draw the crowds of spending visitors.

The question that may one day come before taxpayers, should the RDN advance the idea of a Ravensong Aquatic Centre expansion or a multi-sport complex, is whether the returns will be worth the inevitable cost.

They can be, if the crowds come. And members of our local associations have shown they can bring those crowds.

Will the answer be a field of dreams? Or get off of my lawn?

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News