Desperate need for track facilities

John Browne
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A small group of concerned citizens in St. John’s are looking to raise funds to build a community multi-purpose field and track behind St. Paul’s School on Newfoundland Drive.
A committee to construct the facility has been in place for a few years, and co-chair Jennifer Stender says they are determined, with the help of a sponsor and municipal and provincial government grants, to make the project a reality.

The planned four-lane, 335-metre track with a six-lane 100-metre stretch, along with a long jump pit and a shot put circle, would also include a soccer pitch. The total cost has been estimated a close to $1 million.

Right now, if the committee was to get every grant available, the total would only amount to about $23,000, so there’s a ways to go.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done because it’s in a bit of a swampy area and that needs to be dug out and a drainage system put in place under it,” explained Stender. “It’s not just a matter of putting top soil and sods go down.”

But once it’s completed, though primarily a training track for junior high and high school students, it will be a facility for anyone to use.

“It will be open to anyone for anything,” Stender added.

Stender said the facility is for community recreation, to provide citizens with the impetus to get active.

“This is not a school thing. It’s a community thing. If you look around with our level of obesity compared to the rest of Canada, we need to develop an active lifestyle for our people. It’s something we don’t seem to have now,” said Stender, a St. John’s physician who was a competitive track and field athlete.

She isn’t exaggerating.

According to a Human Resources and Skills Development Canada 2011 survey, Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest overweight rate (40 per cent), and obesity rate (29 per cent) in the entire country.

Yet St. John’s is the only capital city in the country without a track and field complex which Stender says is, “a joke.”

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, St. John’s will play host to the 2021 Canada Summer Games. There’s no doubt the capital city will need new facilities, including a suitable track and field venue for those Games.

The track and field facility built for the 1977 Canada Summer Games has been turned into a parking lot.

“That’s horrible, really,” she said.

Stender believes having a practice facility up and running in the next year or so will be a huge benefit for those athletes before a larger, more elaborate facility can be put in place for the Games.

Meanwhile, as far as other new facilities are concerned, earlier this month it was announced that money is in place for a Campia Gymnastics facility in Mount Pearl.

The estimated overall cost is between $2 million to $3 million, which includes a $1M cost-shared investment with the provincial government providing 70 per cent and the City of Mount Pearl covering 30 per cent.

Construction on the new facility is expected to get underway in the next year and should be completed by 2015.

Campia president Melanie Hallett said it will basically be a regional facility with the capacity to host major tournaments.

The president already noted the current membership of 900 participants has a waiting list of 200 and includes athletes from Conception Bay South, Paradise and Bay Roberts, as well as Mount Pearl.

And adding to the list of new facilities which are planned in the near future is the recently announced plans for a $32M facility in Wedgewood Park that will include a six-lane, 25-metre pool.

The proposed recreation complex in the east end of St. John’s will be three times as large as the overcrowded centre in Wedgewood Park.

Organizations: Human Resources, Skills Development Canada 2011

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Mount Pearl Bay Roberts Wedgewood Park

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