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Exchange District welcomes sports complex

An artist's rendering of the Sport for Life Centre
Photo Credit: Sport Manitoba

Winnipeggers will have a track, coaching resource centre, and physiotherapy service to enjoy in the Exchange District by 2012.

These are just some of the amenities that will be in the Sport for Life Centre, which communications officer Tara Skibo says will bring “all of the best elements of sport under one roof.”

And she says the Exchange District site was chosen not just for its central location.

“If we have the ability to make any impact in a community, I think we chose an area that allows us to do that, where what we’re building doesn’t exist here,” said Skibo.

The complex is housed in a heritage building on Pacific Avenue that Sport Manitoba purchased from Prosperity Knitwear Ltd. In phase one of the project, the sport organization’s members, as well as the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, will occupy the 84,000 square-foot building that cost $11.7 million to purchase and renovate.

By March 1, 2010, all but about 10 of Sport Manitoba’s 62 members had moved in. Mal Anderson, executive director of Exchange District Biz, says having so many workers at the centre will be good for business at restaurants and shops in the area.

“And we think a lot of them get attracted to living down here at some point in time,” he added.

The second phase of the Sport for Life Centre involves an adjoining 30,000 square-foot fieldhouse. It will include a track, a resource centre for coaches, a sports and science medicine clinic, as well as massage and physiotherapy services.

“That’s just not all for athletes,” said Skibo. “It’s for the community as well.”

The fieldhouse is expected to cost about $15 million, and Sport Manitoba still needs to secure funding for it. Skibo says they would like to have it open by 2012.

Anderson says if the fieldhouse takes shape, it will “certainly draw people to the area, as well as be an amenity for the people that live here because they’re going to have all those high-end facilities.”

It’s the first time Sport Manitoba owns its own building. Provincial sports organizations had been at 200 Main Street since 1990, when they fell under the umbrella of the Manitoba Sports Federation. Sport Manitoba was notified its lease wouldn’t be renewed after the building was purchased by Wawanesa Insurance.

Sport Manitoba had to find a new home.

“So our board of directors sat down and said, ‘OK what can we do to really have a positive effect and a change on amateur sport and take amateur sport into the future in Manitoba,’” said Skibo. “And that’s where the Sport for Life Centre idea came from.”

All sport bodies were out of 200 Main Street by Dec. 31, 2009.

Skibo says the Sport for Life Centre will have close to 200 workers and will see about 1,200 people come through its doors daily.

Representatives from the centre have been meeting with groups in the area such as condo owners, Exchange District Biz, and United Way to get a sense of the community and to let them know the centre’s plans. Skibo says the community is getting behind the Sport for Life Centre.

“And they’ve written us letters of support to help us in our capital campaign (for the fieldhouse),” she said. “It was reassuring because we felt we could have a major impact in this community. It’s been nice to have our neighbors repeat that to us.”

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Sean Grassie of Red River College

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