Sunday, August 9, 2020

Aiming for new future heights building on a storied past

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Softball is a mainstay sport at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
The Gordie Howe Sports Complex has been and will continue to be the place where memories are made.

For over 60 years, it has been the heart of Saskatoon’s amateur sports scene. Numerous elite level athletes from many sports have graced the Gordie Sports Complex Grounds including Gord Barwell, Erin Cumpstone, Dan Farthing, Logan Hofmann, Catriona Le May Doan, Samantha Matheson, Devon McCullough, Dione Meier, Steve Molnar, Jacki Nichol, Cliff Shaw and Larry Wruck.

Now under the management of not for profit Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Corporation, the fabled complex aims to build off its glorious past.

“The Gordie Howe Sports Complex is well-known across Canada and around the world,” said Bryan Kosteroski, who is the chair of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Incorporated and Friends of the Bowl Foundation. “We have now raised the bar to now have multiple more sports that will have the opportunities to bring in those national and international sporting events.

Baseball is a staple at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
“We’ve raised the bar. The pressure is on us now to bring in major national and international events to the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.”

The Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Corporation officially took over the management of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex on March 1, 2019.

Before the non-profit came into existence, each sport was responsible for coordinating the activities on the various facilities on the complex’s grounds like Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the baseball and softball diamonds and the Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval in winter.

The City of Saskatoon suggested it might help if there was a unified group that coordinated everything that went on at the sports park. The complex hosts events and training sessions for baseball, football, lacrosse, Nordic Skiing, rugby, softball, speed skating, track and field and ultimate disk.

Football has a storied past at SMF Field.
The Gordie Howe Sports Complex will accommodate soccer events too when those needs can’t be met by either the SaskTel Sports Centre or the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre.

The idea of having a unified group overseeing the operations at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex was something the sporting groups that used the park was a good idea and decided to run with.

Johnny Marciniuk, who is the operations manager for the Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Corporation, said their was a 90-day preparation period before the non-profit took on operational responsibilities.

“It has been exciting,” said Marciniuk. “We’ve been operating this for the last year and a half almost, and people are getting the routines down.”

Marciniuk said one of the learning curves involved the learning how work at all the various facilities on the park’s grounds. Before, you had situations where a group of people just worked the grounds of one facility like the softball diamonds.

The Clarence Downey Oval creates great sights.
Now, the maintenance crew at the complex can work the baseball or softball diamonds, prepare the football field or make sure everything is running smooth at the Indoor Training Centre.

“Virtually, all of our employees are athletes or have been involved with various activities either as administration or as a participant,” said Marciniuk. “Now those people whether it is working the track or working the diamonds or working in the Indoor Training Centre, there is lots of cross-training that was necessary to train staff, and we’ve been very fortunate.

“You are only as good as your staff, and we have some excellent people that assist us on a day to day basis.”

Marciniuk said user went through a learning process too, especially when it comes to the Indoor Training Centre. He remembered sports like baseball and softball would overbook for zone tryouts not realizing how much space the Indoor Training Centre had.

Lacrosse groups enjoy the Indoor Training Centre.
“A zone (tryout) may have been in three or four high school gymnasiums,” said Marciniuk. “Now they have one facility.

“We have pitching lanes and batting cages. They started reducing their time a little bit and gave opportunity for other activities to come in.”

Overall, Kosteroski said the driving force behind having a unified not for profit group oversee the operations of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex was that all the users want to see each other succeed.

“The Gordie Sports Complex is a family,” said Kosteroski. “Within our family, we have nine sporting organizations who all are part of the overall complex theme.

“We have representation from all sporting organizations who provide insight into the operations. This is a total team effort with all organizations involved. There is a board of directors that was developed with key people situated on the board with representations from all sports organizations and also First Nations representation and whatever needs we saw that were needed to move the complex forward.

Rugby groups practice at the Indoor Training Centre.
“At the same time, the management team was developed to oversee all the daily operational aspects of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.”

Under the Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Corporation, it will be easier to coordinate major events held on the complex grounds especially if that event needs to utilize the track and field, baseball, softball or SMF Field all at one time.

Kosteroski said the potential for great things to happen at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex is endless. He said the complex is looking forward to making new partnerships with business in the future and is thankful and looking forward to continued partnerships with businesses and organizations the complex has worked with in the past.

“The Gordie Howe Sports Complex will have a major impact with tourism dollars now and into the future,” said Kosteroski. “That is a key role the complex will play for business in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan.”