There’s never been a greater time to be involved with sports in our province as some big developments will be coming to fruition.
Starting this summer, young athletes will reap the benefits of the biggest sports project in Saskatoon’s history now that the volunteer- and donor-driven Gordie Howe Sports Complex is open for business. The complex will bring forth unprecedented opportunities to local talent from Saskatoon and the rest of the province.
Organizers have raised $42 million of their $62 million fundraising goal. The remaining amount will allow them to complete maintenance and renewal projects for existing infrastructures. They anticipate over 175,000 visitors to the sports complex each year which should cover the annual operating costs of $1.25 million.
The points of interest inside the complex are highlighted by a 90,000-square-foot Multi-sport Indoor Athletic Performance & Training Centre, with the new home to the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame attached to it.
The sports complex, located between Avenue U and Avenue P South, will also house a multi-purpose turf field, 13 baseball and softball fields, a CFL-sized football field, Kinsmen Arena, a complex for speed skating and another for track and field. The Gordie Howe Sports Centre will be used for administrative and event-based purposes. The sports complex is expected to be completed by 2020.
A prominent event taking place on the Saskatoon Minor Football Field within the complex is the inaugural Saskatchewan Summer Soccer Series. Promoter Joe Belan wants to bring professional soccer to the province with a friendly match.
The game will be between a Saskatchewan Selects team and the reigning USL League 2 champion Calgary Foothills Football Club. The event took place on May 4, and acted as a test pilot to gauge interest and support from the local community.
Huskies men’s soccer head coach Bryce Chapman is in charge of soccer operations for the Saskatchewan Summer Soccer Series and was immediately intrigued by the initiative.
“We’re in Saskatchewan, and sometimes we’re forgotten. Now, we have the opportunity to showcase our talent,” Chapman said in an interview with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
For Belan and the organizers, their goal is to bring the Canadian Premier League to Saskatoon. If successful, a Saskatoon CPL team will join the seven-team professional soccer league which kicks off their inaugural season this summer with 98 total matches, 20 of which will be broadcasted nationally on CBC.
Saskatoon will be busy with the soccer match taking place a week before the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Saskatchewan Rattlers begin their inaugural season at SaskTel Center on May 9.
The Rattlers have promised to deliver a unique entertainment experience on game days, in hopes of replicating support that the Saskatchewan Rush see from their fans.
Filling a 15,000-seat arena during the hot summer months in Saskatchewan will be quite a challenge. As president of Western operations, Lee Genier has been an executive in professional sports for over two decades. Most notably, he spent 19 years with the Calgary Stampeders before becoming president of the Saskatchewan Rush in 2016, later being named the executive of the year by the National Lacrosse League.
Exciting times are ahead, as these developments could produce immediate and long-term rewards for a community that’s long been left out of the national sports conversation.
Tanner Michalenko / Sports & Health Editor
Graphic: Gordie Howe Sports Complex / Supplied