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Facility in east end St. John's a much-needed for grassroots programs and training
There’s little to see now, other than a vast expanse of ice and snow, remnants of the unrelenting winter of 2020.
But for those in the provincial track and field fraternity, the area behind St. Paul’s Church and St. Paul’s Junior High on Newfoundland Drive in the east end of St. John’s has stirred up some excitement.
It may seem odd to be talking track and field at this challenging point on the calendar — from a weather perspective — but waiting to bloom this spring and used for the first time is a track and field facility that was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting last November.
The St. Paul’s Knights of Columbus Council 11776 got the ball rolling on the project, which will come in costing around $800,000 once fully completed.
The idea was first discussed 15 years ago.
That K of C Council committed $60,000 to the project. From there, Gerry Puddister (Grand Knight of St. Paul’s K of C) approached St. Paul’s school, started a committee and raised another $70,000.
The city contributed $50,000. Both the provincial and federal governments provided notable contributions.
The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s owns the land, and gave permission for it to be used as a sports facility.
Partners involved are the Newfoundland and Labrador Athletics Association (NLAA), the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, the city and St. Paul’s Parish, School and the Knights of Columbus.
The new venue is a shorter version of a regulation track and field facility, such as the Pearlgate Track in Mount Pearl, where most, if not all, of the NLAA’s meets are staged.
“We need facilities like this to attract everyone in our community to become more physically active.” — Gerry Puddister
The track at St. Paul’s is considered a training and community facility, which fits in line with the NLAA’s mandate, according to its technical director, George Stanoev.
“We’re as strong as our members and as our community,” he said. “It’s about grassroots, right? (It’s) about sport development in general.
“It’s about training, and this will definitely be a great training facility. One of the huge benefits is that it’s right next to the school. What we were looking for was regular usage, and having access to indoor facilities, a gym and change rooms.
“Naturally, having it next to a school is a great opportunity for the school, too.”
Local track and field athletes have been reduced to doing a great deal of their training on various roads and parking lots, which can provide obvious challenges.
“This will provide a safe facility where the athletes can actually do a dedicated workout,” Stanoev said.
For now, the new track is asphalt, but the plan is to cover it with a polyurethane all-weather surface/
“From our perspective, and going back to community-based facilities, it’s a perfect facility for newcomers, grass-root developers,” said Stanoev.
“For our serious athletes who want to spend a little more time and learn track and field, it’s a perfect training facility which was something we lacked.”
Puddister said the Knights of Columbus intend to bring back junior high school track meets much like in the days when the schools competed at the old King George V track in the 1970’s
“St Bon’s, Holy Cross, St Pat’s and St Pius X had some great track meets back in the day. Many of those athletes were multi-sport athletes. What soccer, basketball or hockey coach didn’t want a track athlete?” Puddister said.
“We need facilities like this to attract everyone in our community to become more physically active.”