ST. CATHARINES — A new performance centre that includes an indoor track, a health and well-being area, and multi-purpose field house are among the legacy items that will used for years in Niagara when the Canada Games ends this summer.
Originally scheduled for last year but delayed due to COVID, the national celebration of youth sports will run Aug. 6-21 across the region, leaving a strong footprint, say organizers.
“I think the most obvious improvements are exemplified by the new builds that are taking place,” said Christopher Seguin, media and communication manager for the 2022 Summer Games. “Those are mostly specifically highlighted by Canada Games Park and Henley Rowing Centre.”
Here are some of the highlights:
Canada Games Park
A new multi-purpose facility was built with the help of the Walker Family, and Brock University. Located near the athlete’s village at Brock for the Summer Games, it consists of a variety of sport complexes.
“We have the Walker Sports and Abilities Centre that has two ice pads in there,” said Seguin.
“Performance centre, health and well-being centre, a 200-meter indoor track, and you have a multipurpose field house that’s going to be for a parasport gymnasium so the building itself has all these amazing amenities.”
There are also six competition beach volleyball courts, and a cycling pavilion.
There are many cases where the facilities that were built are abandoned after being used for a single event. A lot of fingers are pointed towards the Olympics, with Rio de Janeiro as a common example, but for the upcoming competition, it is a different story.
Most of the venues will continue to be used for what they were intended.
“It goes without saying that Brock University’s going to go in (the facilities). I think there’s already been discussion about the hockey team using the rinks,” said Seguin. “There also would be track competitions taking place, whether it’s at a regional or national level at that facility.”
Brock’s staple sports other than hockey are basketball, wrestling, and lacrosse. This will be the first time the Games are including lacrosse in the program since 1985, also the first ever to hold women’s competitions in the sport.
“It is really kind of exciting thing, especially considering how important lacrosse is to the Truth and Reconciliation and our indigenous communities,” said Seguin. “Given that it is really the creators game, I would be beyond shocked if there wasn’t a lacrosse club that was going to take advantage of it after.”
Henley Rowing Centre
A brand-new rowing facility located in Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines, will be part of the Royal Canadian Henley Rowing Course.
“Although the Henley rowing course hosted regional, provincial, national and international rowing competitions, for more than 100 years now, but it kind of lacked essential off water training and support facilities,” said Seguin.
“When the Games came in, it provided an opportunity to build a new rowing centre that we’re calling the Henley Rowing Centre.”
Michelle O’Keefe, one of the board members for the Niagara Summer Games, believes this will be the future of rowing not just in St. Catharines, but in Canada.
“Not only they are hosting Canada Games, they are hosting a world championship in the coming years,” said O’Keefe. “Just the overhaul of that building gives them such a leg up on potential other hosts and the rowers of the world.
“The local rowers, Canadian rowers, and rowers of the world will have an amazing experience when they go there.”
As mentioned, this upgrade gave the city an advantage and enabled Niagara to host a major event. As a result, St. Catharines will be hosting the 2024 World Rowing Championship.
One of the additions is putting the new amenities in place for athletes with physical disabilities, which the committee believes was a key reason for St. Catharines to have the privilege to host the international event for the third time in history.
At the regional level, Brock University again will be using the facility, as well as St. Catharines Rowing Club, and Ridley College.
“It will affect the local community, a centralized spot to train through the winter on the rowing machines as a group is a new opportunity,” said Peter Somerwil, the head coach of Brock men’s rowing team. “We already have one of the best training facilities on water training, so this will improve the off-water facilities for the locals.”
Organizers also point to strong social effects from hosting.
According to Seguin, the board is trying to recruit 4,500 volunteers, and train 750 minor and major officials across the 18 sports that will be played.
“If they (Niagara) want to host an event they can just tap into this pool and resource that’s already pre-existing,” said Seguin. “On top of the infrastructure, you have the community that’s now trained on how you host all these sports, and I think that’s also the cool aspect of everything.”
O’Keefe was also optimistic on this side of the outcome.
“There’s the technical and volunteer leadership and all those things are also going to be developed,” said the Welland native. “Those who participated and see how good a community can get built around sport will be a legacy because they’ll talk for years about how amazing experience was at the Canada Games.”