WR and Howe: Facilities First, and Then Summer Games

While Waterloo Region may have finished on the podium in the race to host the 2021 Canada Summer Games, Niagara Region came out on top. I’m OK with that, as long as we understand where we fell short and act on it.

Most of the marquee action at the last Olympics took place in two facilities: the track and field stadium and the swimming pool. We do not have either in Waterloo Region.

Don’t get me wrong, I supported the bid. We have the people power and expertise to pull off a major sporting event, as we have proven time and again with golf, hard ball and curling. But not being selected as the host city did not surprise me.

The local bid had track and field events taking place in Guelph, with the swimming happening in Brantford. Even if we had been selected as host, we still would not have those facilities in Waterloo Region as a legacy of the games. There wasn’t even a badly needed new stadium for the Kitchener Panthers included.

Niagara Region’s bid, on the other hand, included building a new track and field stadium at Brock University. A three story sports centre with an accessible gym, a second floor wrestling and martial arts facility and several health and wellness facilities are also being built there. As a result, hosting the Canada Games will leave a real legacy in Niagara Region for elite athletes and many other local citizens.

We need to hear the message sent by the Canada Games decision and act on it.

With 535,000 people living here – and more every month – Waterloo Region needs a track and field stadium and swimming facility capable of hosting national events. As with the Canada Games, these events could give our area a major boost of economic activity.

Even more importantly, our young athletes deserve proper facilities at which to train and compete without travelling half an hour or more outside the Region.

We can take a page out of Niagara’s playbook and ensure these facilities are designed to provide opportunities that increase physical activity opportunities for all children and a diverse range of adults.

I see hope in the cooperation between our local municipalities to coordinate the 2021 bid. Because the scope of these facilities is regional, I think there is an opportunity for the Region of Waterloo to take the lead in a collaborative effort with the cities.

The big question then is where to locate facilities.

One possibility is to redevelop the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex. It is central with great access to the expressway and will soon have an iXpress bus connecting to the LRT.

Or, I hear there may be a good site for a major athletic facility on Conestoga College’s Cambridge Campus.


James Howe is a community advocate who blogs on urban issues and how they contribute to building healthy, happy communities at and on Twitter as @JamesHoweWR