As the old song goes, “The Saints Will Come Marching Home” within about ten months.
A February 1st media conference and sod-turning at the college unveiled St. Clair’s new, $21.5 million Sports Park.
To be located at the south end of campus, the Sports Park will feature a new soccer stadium, tennis complex, sand volleyball courts, fieldhouse, concession stands, and a concourse area; and, in its second phase, a new softball/baseball diamond. There will also be new parking lots, capable of accommodating 450 vehicles.
Specifically, the features include:
• Soccer stadium: artificial turf, fully lit for night play, 1,500 individual seats, press box, jumbo video score-board;
• Outdoor sand volleyball complex: four courts, fully lit for night play, snack bar/restaurant;
• Tennis centre: four indoor courts, pro shop, dressing rooms;
• Softball diamond: artificial turf, fully lit for night play, bleachers for 400 fans;
• Landmark beacon entrance: creates college visibility from highway, entrance to streetscape that provides the walkway through the park.
Spearheading the project is the Student Representative Council (SRC), which has overseen the design of the development (with the college’s administration), and arranged the lion’s share of its financing. The mortgage for the Sports Park will be paid off over the next couple of decades by a specially designated student fee – an extension of the fee that was initially implemented to construct the college’s SportsPlex (gym and fitness centre).
Several private-sector donations are also assisting with the facility’s construction:
• Last year, the philanthropic foundation of Barry and Stephanie Zekelman and the steel-manufacturing Zekelman Industries donated $5 million to the college to assist with the expansion of the School of Business and Information Technology. As part of that package, the Zekelmans directed that some of the funding should be used to foster the couple’s favourite sport: tennis. So, the new courts of the Sports Park will be crested with the Zekelman name;
• Mike Schlater of Leamington, the President and CEO of Domino’s Pizza (Canada), has donated one million dollars to the project. The Domino’s logo will adorn the huge new score-board of the soccer stadium; and
• The Windsor Family Credit Union (WFCU), which is providing the mortgage funding for the development, is also contributing a monetary donation. That will lead to the christening of the entire site as the “St. Clair Sports Park, Presented by the WFCU”.
For the past several years, the physical deterioration of the campus’ existing soccer pitches, coupled with the shortage of spectator facilities for both soccer and baseball/softball, had led the college to move its home game for those outdoor sports to such sites as the Libro Centre field in Amherstburg, Windsor’s Mic Mac Park and Tecumseh’s Lacasse Park.
College President Patti France noted, “Bringing the teams home to campus has been very important to us. But the financial constraints associated with capital spending within the college system had prevented us from carrying out this development; until now, when our student organizations stepped forward, indicated that new athletic facilities were on the top of their ‘wish list’ too, and asserted that they could – and would – make this dream a reality.
“Just as it spearheaded the financing and construction of the facility you are in right now – the Student Life Centre – our Student Representative Council will be overseeing all aspects of the funding and construction of the Sports Park. Once completed, the Student Athletic Association will be largely responsible for its day-to-day operation.”
Discussing their integral role in the project, St. Clair Board of Governors Chair Dan Allen praised the student organizations: “When I was a student, the extent of project planning and involvement on the part of my campus organizations dealt with the staging of dances, proms, and maybe the occasional field trip … When I was in my late-teens and early-20s, I don’t recall that either I or my contemporaries were initiating and overseeing multi-million property developments, negotiating big financial transactions, or signing off on architectural blueprints.
“In my opinion, all of the sarcasm that one now hears about how members of the millennial generation don’t have real-world skills or mind-sets is entirely wrong. The student leaders who have been associated with this project are among the most innovative, conscientious, intelligent and forward-thinking people – of any age – that I’ve ever met. And I say ‘forward-thinking’ because, by arranging for this development, they are not only responding to the demands of current students, but providing for the needs of St. Clair students and student-athletes for decades in the future.”
Laura Walker, President of the Student Athletic Association, observed, “We know that financial constraints have made it difficult for the college (administration) to move ahead with this project until now. Still, according to surveys carried out during the past five to ten years, one of the chief demands by students has been for additional facilities for leisure-time, entertainment, recreational and athletic activities.”
Picking up on that thought, SRC President Holly Nicholson added, “In partnership with the college, we’ve addressed many of those concerns during the past decade. We’ve built the SportsPlex to provide gym space for our indoor sports and fitness club requirements, and the Student Life Centre for social and entertainment purposes. And, now, with this project, we’re addressing the needs of our other athletic pursuits – soccer, sand volleyball, tennis and, down the road, softball and baseball. Oh, and cricket too.”
Walker continued, “The amenities for spectators in the Sports Park will ensure that family, friends and fans will have a wonderful experience when they turn out for games at the new site. I’m certain that the new stadium will be playing host to both provincial and national college championships in the future – and serving as the venue of local leagues, and maybe such events as Special Olympics, and the Ontario and Canada Summer Games.”
Making reference to the 1989 film, France said, “The tag-line of Kevin Costner’s ‘Field Of Dreams’ was ‘Build it and they will come’. That is our expectation and hope, too: that we will build this new Sports Park, and they will come … student-athletes on our varsity teams; students-in-general, playing intramural sports and leisure-time games; fans filling the bleachers; and local children, adults and seniors seeking fun and fitness.”
The Sports Park has been designed by the local Architecttura Inc. firm, and the general contractor will be the Fortis Group.