City to name soccer field after Walters family

Field to be named after former Sicamous principal and school district employee.

Eric Walters’ ears must have been burning Monday afternoon when Salmon Arm council decided to rename one of the city’s soccer pitches in his family’s honour.

The decision followed an eloquent presentation by Wyn Gittins on the Walters family’s vital role in the history of community soccer in Salmon Arm.

Gittins’ presentation began with a request that what is currently known as Soccer Field #1 in Blackburn Park be named Walters Field. He went on to explain how, prior to 1973, there was no official minor soccer program. The seeds of this program were planted that year, however, in a meeting between Eric Walters, Jim Kennedy, Joe Verdurmen and Tom Brighouse.

“They decided that it was time to start a minor soccer program,” said Gittins, adding that for a $2 fee, program participants were given a T-shirt and soccer ball.

Walters arrived in Salmon Arm in the mid-1960s, and was on staff at the senior high school. In 1973, he became principal at Eagle River Secondary in Sicamous. His full-time educational career ended in 1984, though he continued to work with the school district and, from 1989-93, served as a member of the faculty of mathematics at Okanagan College.

Gittins said Eric and his wife, Mattie, had five boys, and that minor soccer wound up being a Walters family affair.

“The Walters boys recall piling into the family station wagons on weekends along with balls, corner flags, water bottles and goal nets,” said Gittins, adding that Mattie came to be known as Mrs. Soccer.

Once minor soccer was well-established, said Gittins, Eric focused his energies on establishing men’s soccer. He became organizer of the league and helped to keep the successful Salmon Arm soccer league tournament, established by Wayne March (organizer and player of Sicamous’ Dairyland Exiles), alive and running from 1980 to 2011.

“The most memorable tournament for Eric Walters was in 1986, when he was handed the tournament two days before (it) was due to begin,” said Gittins.

Brent Moffat of the Shuswap Youth Soccer Association also championed the honouring of the Walters family.

“It’s our opinion, it’s because of the dedication of people like Eric Walters and the Walters family, that we have such a vibrant and competitive soccer community,” said Moffat. “Shuswap Youth Soccer wholly endorses placing a plaque and honouring Walters Field at Blackburn Park.”

Council gave unanimous support to Gittins’ request, with staff suggesting a free-standing sign will be set up at the field.