Political and geographical boundaries were abandoned yesterday as officials gathered at Niagara Regional Headquarters to take part in the ceremonial sod-turning for construction of the new Canada Games Facility.
Four levels of government – municipal, regional, provincial and federal – and the 12 municipalities of Niagara, in a rare display of unity, praised the teamwork that took place in bringing the games to Niagara.
And Thorold was front and centre as the location of Canada Games Park.
Lisa Macleod, provincial Minister of Sport, Heritage and Tourism, said the project will inject $400 million into the Region. “Imagine what that will do for sport tourism and job creation,” she said.
She said the project meets the double bottom line, improving both economic and social conditions in Niagara.
Brock president of the board of trustees, Gary Comerford, recounted growing up in Merritton and learning to skate at Thorold’s James Whyte Arena. Saying the partnership with Brock was crucial to Niagara's landing the games, he also pointed to the unanimous support from Niagara municipalities in developing a plan that won the bid.
“Can you imagine the conversation of convincing Walter (St. Catharines Mayor Sendzik) to agree to build the building in Thorold,” he quipped.
"It takes people with vision; it takes people with stamina; it takes people with guts to make it happen," he added. "And the number of people with those qualities in this room today is just enormous."
Thorold Mayor Terry Ugulini thanked Chair of the 2021 Canada Summer Games, Doug Hamilton, saying, “You and your team have worked tirelessly, spearheading the Games initiative and deserve recognition for those efforts and the results that have led up to today’s event.”
He added, “During the provincial government review of regional government we discussed, and were directed to find, synergies, streamline service delivery and develop partnership opportunities. Canada Games Park is a glowing example of that and what is possible."
"Partnering on the legacy facilities means we can offer our residents the amenities they expect and deserve. These facilities would have been cost prohibitive with a go-it-alone business model,” argued Ugulini.
Each participating partner mentioned the elected and staff members who worked on their portion of the agreement. In Thorold, Ugulini thanked CAO Manoj Dilwaria, Director of Public Works Geoff Holman, Finance Director Maria Mauro, Manager of Recreation and facilities Curtis Dray, and Council Liaison John Kenny.
"They put a lot of work into this," said Ugulini.
Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey added, "From August 6 to 21, 2021, Niagara will surge stronger than ever before on the national stage, showcasing our nation's talent - their dedication and commitment to bettering themselves, strengthening the character of their communities and, overall, Canada. Together we are building Niagara's Canada Games Park; however, it is our athletes who will be building our nation's next generation of inspiration."
"It (hosting the Games) allows us to potentially identify more elite athletes in our own community," said Regional Chair Jim Bradley, "and it encourages many out there, who might not have thought of competing at this level, to do so."
"The Region invested $20 million into the Games because we saw the benefits it would bring to Niagara. But there will be benefits to the province and the country as well," Bradley added. "The Games are a catalyst for development. The Games will directly and indirectly, create thousands of jobs."
St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle spoke of the legacy facilities that would continue long after the Games.
"Investing in modern infrastructure is incredibly important," he stated. "By investing in infrastructure we're investing in Canadians. We're improving their quality of life and these investments lead to better services and exciting economic opportunities."
He continued, "Given the legacy impact the Games could have in Niagara, we knew it was important for the government of Canada to be funding partner."
Sendzik said participating in the project will help St. Catharines achieve its parks and recreation master plan.
"How do we build our community; how do we make it sustainable and at the same time make it affordable? And that, I think is what today is all about with our partnership."
"Here we are in Thorold where it's sunny. I don't know what Terry (Ugulini) does but it's beautiful to be here in Thorold," he joked.
Hamilton noted, "Jim (Bradley) and I had the distinct pleasure of accepting the flag from Red Deer at the end of their closing ceremonies. I'm reminded of Jim's smile when he accepted that flag. Our goal is to re-create that smile across Niagara in the next couple years."