College's "Field Of Dreams" A Reality

sports park grand opening

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With all due respect to Kevin Costner, St. Clair’s “Field Of Dreams” is quite a bit more snazzy than his.

The 2004 film about the Iowa cornfield being converted into a mystical baseball diamond was referenced several times during the November 17th grand opening of the college’s new Sports Park.

And rightfully so, because the origins of the sites are identical. When the college was founded in the late-1960s, it, too, was built on what had been a farm …

… Which might, to a degree, explain why the development was required. No matter how much topsoil was dumped and contoured on the south end of campus over the decades, its baseball diamonds and soccer pitches had been constructed on what was originally a cow pasture – leading to holes, dips and ruts which made them less than ideal athletic grounds.

Land expropriation for the construction of the Herb Gray Parkway also ate into the college’s athletic field space.

A decade ago, the fields were largely put out of use.

In her remarks at the grand opening, college President Patti France noted, “As we explored solutions (to the condition of the on-campus fields), our (varsity) soccer, baseball and softball teams found new homes” – among them Mic Mac Park, Windsor Stadium, Lacasse Park in Tecumseh, and the Libro Centre in Amherstburg.

“Still, a ‘home-away-from-home’ game isn't really a home game,” France continued. “So, it definitely has been our wish, for the past decade, to see the Saints come marching home, on to campus, on fields and diamonds reflecting their excellence; and to provide an atmosphere and amenities which would encourage substantial fan attendance.”

Stepping up to make that dream a reality were the college’s student organizations. Through a continuation of the student fee that originally constructed the SportsPlex gymnasium, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and Saints-Student Athletic Association (SSAA) generated the lion’s share of the funding for the $23.8 million Sports Park.

Listing the vast array of services provided to students by those campus organizations, SRC President Jorge Gutierrez Calzada explained, “Fitness has become just as much of a concern to young adults as health insurance, food banks and food services, and their mental wellness.

“Almost as soon as we cut the ribbon on the new gymnasium complex (the SportsPlex, opened seven years ago), we asked what we could do for our outdoor athletes … to bring their home games back home. What we could do is, now, what we have done. You are standing in the culmination of our dreams.”

France added, “The huge crowds which have turned out for basketball and volleyball games since we built the SportsPlex several years ago clearly demonstrated that ‘if you build it, they will come’. For our outdoor sports, ‘The Field Of Dreams’ that we open today will, I'm sure, be as welcomed by fans as it is by athletes. That was the college administration’s dream; but it was, chiefly, the student organizations of St. Clair that made it a reality.”

Sitting on 14.74 acres of land, that reality takes the form of:

 

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• a 1,500-seat, artificially turfed soccer/football stadium, with a fully equipped press box. It is named after the most recent donor to the project, the Ace Acumen Academy – St. Clair’s Toronto-based “sister school”. The Acumen Stadium’s gigantic electronic scoreboard and other amenities were funded by a donation by Domino’s Pizza Canada (and its President, Mike Schlater of Leamington). It will be the home of varsity soccer teams and the new St. Clair Fratmen team of the Canadian Junior Football league;

• a softball diamond – also with artificial turf and a press box. It will be the home of the women’s varsity softball team;

• the Zekelman Indoor Tennis Centre. It was donated to the development by college patrons Barry and Stephanie Zekelman. It features four courts, two “Playsight” technology courts, dressing rooms, and coaches offices. (Playsight is a company founded in Israel which provides video and AI technology for coaching in a variety of sports);

• four sand volleyball courts, lighted for night play;

• various student social settings in the concourse, and food outlets.

In addition to the Zekelmans, Ace Acumen and Domino’s/Schlater, the Windsor Family Credit Union (WFCU) donated to the Sports Park’s development, as well as serving as its financier.

The Sports Park was designed by Windsor’s Architecttura Inc., and the general contractor was Windsor’s Fortis Group.

In addition to funding the complex, the SRC and SSAA will manage and staff the Sports Park on behalf of the college – providing a large number of employment opportunities to students.

“By extending the fee funding which had bankrolled the SportsPlex, and by being fully involved in all aspects of this facility’s design and operational management plan, the SRC and SSAA have been the driving forces behind this development,” France emphasized. “And they will be running it on a day-to-day basis. I cannot commend them enough for the contribution that they've made to their fellow students, to students yet to come, and to the community-at-large which will also benefit from this athletic complex.”

SSAA President Michael Beale, and several other speakers, emphasized that the spectacular quality of the new Sports Park is already boosting St. Clair’s athletic recruitment – and student enrolment – efforts.

In this “new house for Saints Nation ... we will build a legacy of champions.” Beale added.

Anita Comella, Senior Director of Tennis Canada, said the new Zekelman Centre would “put St. Clair and Windsor on the map for tennis ... I’m see you will be seeing great players coming out of this facility.” See also read a telegram from the legendary Billie Jean King, congratulating the college and commending the Zekelman family for its donation.

The Zekelman Tennis Centre will welcome its first players this coming weekend, but the remainder of the Sports Park won’t be fully used until sometime next year, because the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association cancelled all 2020-21 sports seasons due to the pandemic.

FOR MANY MORE PHOTOS OF THIS EVENT: http://stclair-src.org/news/piles-of-pix/sports-park-grand-opening