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ROBIN SHORT: Refurbished Costco building could be answer to sporting quagmire

It was business as usual Thursday afternoon at the Costco outlet on Stavanger Drive as folks entered and left with their purchases. However, this time next year this outlet will be no more. It was confirmed by Costco on Thursday that the business will move to a brand new retail outlet in the Danny Williams-led Galway development on the outskirts of St. John’s.
What to do with this large building when Costco eventually moves? Robin Short shares an idea.

An editor I once worked for a long time ago had a piece of advice for reporters: “The best ideas are those stolen from other papers,” said Jim Palmateer, who indeed was some distant relation to Mike (did I ever tell the story of the time I scored on Mike Palmateer? Beauty, too. Low, stick side. But that’s a story for another day).

Admittedly, this isn’t my idea. Troy Croft, the Sport NL executive director, owns this one, and it’s a dandy.

When it comes to sports facilities, can we all agree Newfoundland and Labrador is a joke? Third world.

So how about this: how about government purchasing and reconfiguring the soon-to-be-vacant Costco building on Stavanger Drive, and the adjacent former Zellers/Target building, and turning them into recreation facilities?

I’ve covered sports stories in every province, with the exception of New Brunswick, and I’ve seen time and again facilities housing swimming pools and ice rinks and gyms and artificial turf fields.

And no, not just in Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal or Winnipeg.

Try Whitehorse, Yukon. Grande Prairie, Alta. Kamloops, B.C.

As colleague Brendan McCarthy points out, the last time a hockey rink was built in the City of St. John’s (not counting Mile One Centre), it was probably Bussey Arena (then Brother O’Hehir Arena, constructed by the Christian Brothers).

So we’ve got an answer.

Government invests in health and wellness, following the lead of most provinces and major municipalities who see the many benefits of sport and recreation: you construct a sports hub down on Stavanger Drive for the provincial sports governing bodies.

You build offices and meeting rooms and storage areas for the sports administrators, allowing them to escape their current broom closets on Kenmount Road.

You include physio areas, and cardio and strength and conditioning rooms. You build an indoor track, with a Field Turf infield, with all the required equipment for various sports like rugby (scrum machines) and baseball and softball (batting cages), soccer nets, etc.

In the Zellers/Target building, you put in a proper gym that’s capable of playing host to basketball and volleyball tournaments (in other words, you have spectator seating).

Yes, we have the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Centre, but as anyone will tell you, it’s a training facility, not one designed to stage events. That requires seating, of which there is very little in the Sports Centre.

The privately-owned Techniplex, by all accounts, is going great guns, and likely wouldn’t be affected with the opening of another indoor Field Turf facility, which is critical in a climate such as ours.

They’ll all come in real handy when it’s the province’s turn to play host to the 2025 Canada Summer Games.

The whole idea, of course, will drive a certain segment of the population nuts. What about our roads? Our hospital lineups? Our power bills? On and on it goes.

Valid points, no doubt.

But here’s the thing. They (except for the power bill thing) were concerns 20 years ago, and they’ll be concerns 20 years from now, regardless what happens or what is spent.

What makes a community and province are things that people want and need — parks, shops, restaurants, walking trails and, yes, sports facilities.

In this case, we are providing badly needed sports venues, and a place to train our high performance athletes.

And judging by our overall results nationally, especially at the Canada Games level, we need a lot of help in that department.

So, there you go. Government, make it happen.

We may even name it after Troy Croft.

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort.

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