Recall, those of you old enough to remember, when you used to pick up your purchases from Sears up the hill on Old Airport Road?
Well, Sears is no longer with us but the building where everything was housed before now has new tenants and it will be a real mix of sports.
The Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT, NWT Softball and Hockey NWT have joined together on what’s being called the Multi-Sport Training Facility. The announcement of the new facility was made official on Monday through a press release with a soft opening happening this week. It will house such amenities as synthetic ice, artificial turf and sport flooring that can be used for activities like shooting practice for hockey, pitching and batting cages for softball and traditional games and archery.
Chad Hinchey, NWT Softball’s executive director, said this new location is similar to what NWT Softball opened up in spring 2021 at another location in Yellowknife, which had batting and pitching cages.
“I was in the old facility as a patron,” he said. “The work that Steve (Thomas), Jenn (Lukas) and Paul (Gard) and the whole crew did to put that together meant we saw an improved number of people in our membership base simply by doing that. When the Sports Circle and Hockey NWT caught wind of what we were doing with that, they thought it would be cool to have a space where we could have multiple things and a collective project for something bigger.”
According to the release, the facility was a project which “… stemmed from the partner organization’s shared difficulty in securing adequate rental space to deliver programming due to the high demand and limitations of current facilities.”
The facility measures 4,500 sq. ft. in size and can be configured to host a multitude of activities. The first scheduled event at the new joint is the NWT Archery Championships, hosted by Archery NT, which are set to happen in late March.
Hinchey said the hope for the softball end of things is to make is as close as possible to what was in the prior facility.
“The goal is to have full functionality of two batting cages with pitching machines, three pitching lanes with one that we could convert into a bigger space to run some grounding drills, and the ability to do some soft-toss and hitting off of a tee,” he said. “We’d love for it to happen all at the same time, which will increase the functionality for coaches and for youth.”
Kyle Kugler, Hockey NWT’s executive director, said the idea for this all came from what NWT Softball did last year.
“We approached NWT Softball to see if this was a short-term or long-term plan,” he said. “They were interested in extending the offering year-round and that was our vision: providing our athletes an option to continue their development off-season.”
He also said the big plus is giving groups a chance to go somewhere and not have to fight for what he called “prime-time slots”.
“We found out that archery was having trouble finding a suitable space and trouble booking facilities, like a lot of other organizations are dealing with,” he said. “That’s kind of how it all began. Conversations started and we made the commitment in October to go ahead with it. We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity to get to this point but we’re excited to share the news with everyone that we’re opening.”
Skates won’t be allowed on what’s called the dryland tiles, the term for the synthetic ice, with the exception of one area where the tile is blue. Players will be able to shoot and pass and do any other non-skating drill on the synthetic ice.
For now, the facility will only be open to groups that fall under the three organizations involved in running it but the hope is to open things up to the public eventually.
“We do envision the (facility) as a potential territorial community hub, capable of hosting events such as trade shows, art and craft markets, cultural events, as well as a potential Arctic Winter Games sport facility,” stated Aaron Wells, executive director of the Sports Circle.