The wait and the speculation are over.
The Northern Sport Centre at the University of Northern British Columbia will be built, Premier Gordon Campbell told over 250 people at an announcement event Thursday morning.
Flanked by university, high school, and other athletes, he pledged $20.5 million to the project, long sought after to train elite athletes and recruit and retain students at the university.
“This is just a start to building the kind of culture of sport and physical fitness we want in the province,” Campbell said. “This will give our athletes the opportunity to be the best they can possibly be.
“It says to all students: this is a place not only to build your minds, but your bodies.”
He said the sport centre could help lead the way to meeting his goal of having 20 per cent more British Columbians physically fit by 2010.
The first phase of the Northern Sport Centre, valued at $31.6 million, will include a multi-court gymnasium with seating for 2,000 spectators, a field house with indoor track and outdoors sports field, and connections to the Otway ski trails. It will also serve as PacificSport’s base of northern operations, and provide athletes with access to support services, coaches, and new facilities for testing.
The city and the university will partner to provide the balance of the funding. Completion of the centre – to be located near the entrance to the university – is expected in 2008.
“This is a great day for northern athletes, UNBC, the city, and the region,” UNBC president Dr. Charles Jago said. “The Northern Sport Centre represents opportunity.”
That includes the chance to create a national centre for Nordic sports, he said.
Northern Sport Centre steering committee co-chair Bill Lynch donned a party hat and blew a plastic horn at the podium in celebration before thanking the government and volunteers.
“Finally, our community can offer a world-class athletic facility,” he said. “This is the beginning of a new tradition where our hometown athletes can stay here and train.”
To the volunteers who served on the committee and those who participate in local sports, he said it was their day.
“It was your perseverance and your commitment that led to this,” he said. “You fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and community volunteers, you all deserve today’s commitment.”