By Bill Potrecz, The Standard
ST. CATHARINES, ON – If all goes as planned a new, multi-purpose athletic centre will be up and running by the fall on the site of the facility formerly known as St. Catharines Racquet and Athletics Club.
The owners of Balllhockey.com have bought the facility on Melbourne Ave. and intend to invest significantly in facility with an expansion of activities to include beach volleyball, dodge ball, ball hockey, soccer and personal training.
“It going to be a very active facility,” said Mike Broley, manager, special events and business development for Ballhockey.com.
Broley said his company was looking for a site to expand its ball hockey operations indoors and came across the property.
“We’re been running a location on Eastchester with two rinks for the last four years and been exploring what options there were to move ball hockey indoors and we found this property and thought it would be something we could run with,” Broley said. “The more we got into it and starting talking to people about the tennis and squash and volleyball and everyone was really positive, so we thought we could make it work.
“As opposed to just a ball hockey rink, it will be a recreational centre with different activities.”
Broley said he wasn’t sure of the size of the expansion but the cost is “multi-million dollars.”
Broley feels the venture will be a success.
“There is risk, but it comes down to promotion and getting your name out there,” Broley said. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to develop this property and see athletic activity arriving in St. Catharines from regional, provincial, national or even international sources. The club has a tremendous history and the core building is sound. It will be fun to work with the existing users and also bring new people to the building for future events.”
Broley indicated the facility will also include a new sports bar, complete with several televisions.
“That’s going to be the centre piece of the whole facility,” Broley said. “We’ll have TVs that will show every sporting event. It’s going to be nice when we have tournaments.
“You have a central hub where you can stick around and get a bite to eat.”
Broley said the early returns are promising.
“I think the one thing we have going for us — obviously it’s a money and a lot of nerves — but we already have an existing customer base,” he said. “We’re not starting this from scratch. We have our ball hockey running almost at capacity and we’re just moving them to a nicer facility.
“We’ve had a tremendous response to the other activities. The tennis club wasn’t sure if they were going to run this summer because we were buying the property, but we said we want to keep the tennis courts and we’ve got about 80 members.”
As well, about 30 players have signed up for squash.
“We have had a level of uncertainty as to what was going to happen here over the past few years and are excited to participate in building a vibrant active athletic club,” said Stephen Harper, vice- president of Squash Niagara.
Work is slated to begin this summer.
“We are now on-site and building improvements and maintenance upgrades will begin immediately to support the existing tenants, and we will begin making upgrades to the recreational facility soon,” Broley said.