Empire Communities sees a responsibility to build municipalities outside the boundaries of its developments, says Mark Tutton, president of Empire of Low Rise.
“It’s just the kind of thing that can happen. We improve every community we build in and slowly, piece by piece, make the world a better place,” he said.
He made the comments ahead of the official opening of the new Empire Sportsplex on Saturday.
The sprawling sports complex, in the upper parking area of the Welland International Flatwater Center on Townline Tunnel Road, is home to multiple courts that can accommodate pickleball, tennis, basketball, volleyball and more.
It is also home to inclusive courts built by Jumpstart Canadian Tire and Empire, which can accommodate a variety of sports for people of all skill levels.
“I have never seen anything like it anywhere else. We weren’t involved in anything else like that.
“There is nothing on such a scale, and open to such a large number of users and such a vast area as this. This is a first for us,” said Tutton, who has built golf courses and community amenities throughout his career.
He said guaranteeing park spaces in new developments is a requirement in Ontario.
Empire Communities is building two subdivisions to the southeast – one on former John Deere property and one to the east that borders the working Welland Canal.
Tutton said the idea for the sports complex came naturally during the development process.
“This city had the desire to set up this facility. They asked us to dedicate a portion of our parks contribution to this effort, and we happily agreed.
Tutton said Empire employees built the facility.
“It’s a testament to them because it was a real effort to get there. In the end we had difficulties with the clubhouse where we had to step in and finish it because an outside contractor couldn’t deliver it. »
Tutton said that although it is being built for Welland residents, he may see wider use of the facility due to some of the built-in aspects, such as inclusive courts.
Scott Fraser, president of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, said one of the organization’s big efforts since its inception in 2005 has been inclusive play.
“When we discovered this opportunity here, we realized what a great opportunity it would be for us to provide additional resources for the children. Having accessible areas to play basketball and tennis and using court spaces from all possible ways,” Fraser said.
He said sport brings many benefits to children, including social connections.
“We want to promote the importance of getting out and staying active. Every child deserves a chance, and great things can happen if they get the chance,” Fraser said.
Jeff Tiessen, CEO of ParaSport Ontariosaid the importance of inclusive courts is that they were not an afterthought.
“It was built as part of the design, with everyone in mind. There’s a sense of belonging,” said Tiessen, a three-time Paralympian.
He said five parasports were to be featured on the courts after the official ceremony, including wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, bocce, sitting volleyball and sledge hockey.
“It showcases this segment of our community. People with disabilities want to be active.
Tiessen is not aware of any large purpose-built inclusive multi-courts in the province, such as the Empire Sportsplex.
“This is built with everyone in mind.”
Rob Axiak, director of community services for Welland, said the sports complex will bring the community together.
Axiak said the parasport aspect will be a regional draw for different sports and people with varying interests and abilities.
Just before Saturday’s official opening, Axiak said he remembered where there was nothing but a big pile of mud at the site.
“As things started to fall into place, the sand came in and that was a big thing. The lines (on the courts) started to get painted and you could see her coming out of the ground.
The city’s recreation staff were enthusiastic and started bringing in different sports organizations to see what their needs and interests were.
There was a somewhat soft opening and the pickleball players took to the courts to test them out and see what they looked like.
“We had great feedback,” Axiak said.
Mayor Frank Campion said
the facility will attract people to the calm water center and give people something to do between runs.
Campion said the area can be a hub, a gathering place, as South Welland develops.