by Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame President Curtis J. Phillips

September 15, 2007 Fort McMurray Today

Amazed. Astounded. Astonished.

Words race inside my head following a recent one-hour tour of the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre.

Flabbergasted. Thunderstruck. Surprised.

More words start tumbling around.

How may one describe the soon-to-be open Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre?

It is simply mind-boggling within the current fabric and sport scape of Fort McMurray and region. We have all heard that the community-based facility and home to the Keyano College Huskies, would be world-class, but now it was time to see it first-hand. Finishing touches were still being made on the 15,000 square feet of hardwood in the Canadian National Resources Gymnasium. Wayne Thomas, my tour guide and Keyano College’s Director of Campus Life along with a few other titles, literally had to hold me back from stepping onto the court.

“This is the new Mecca of local sports,” I whispered, standing there my mouth agape.

The gym will also seat 750 plus fans to cheer on the Huskies with the possible hosting of a Canadian College Championship coming our way in 2009.

Few courts in Canada will rival this.

The adjacent Albian Field, with its bright green turfed surface, will be home to the Fort McMurray Youth Soccer Association during the winter months. It will also host the sports of football, lacrosse, rugby and Ultimate Frisbee to name a few. The third in the series of playing surfaces located in this mega field house is the 14,000 square foot Alberta Building Trades Field. Never have I seen so many lines on a sporting surface….basketball, badminton, football, volleyball and I think even dodgeball and team handball lineage. You may need a road map to figure out the sport. This feast for the eyes multi purpose field will also house a high-tech indoor batting cage. High tech is what makes the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre stand out.

Upstairs at the Long Boat Landing Fitness Centre are a bevy of state-of-the-art work out machines. Many of them have television monitors and hook ups for your I pod. There are also some fancy dancy machines that look like they have fish bowl attached to them…water resistant workouts I am told. Jacobs ladder will also in place to test ones endurance.

The big attraction in this area though is the natural lighting with the windows climbing floor to ceiling.

The building will also house the Alberta Sport and Development Centre, Shifting to Wellness, Be For Life Centre. All three have a bit of history in our region but to be honest have remained in the shadows for the most part. This will be their coming out party.

There is plenty more open to the public, including the Wood Buffalo Sport Hall of Fame, but it’s up to you to discover what awaits. In regards to the Keyano College Huskies playing within the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) and Alberta Colleges Athletic League (ACAL) ) this new facility will make them feel like professional athletes.

The home team locker rooms (basketball and volleyball) would rival that of any university in Canada and are down scaled versions of those used in the professional ranks. Carpeted floors. Individual open space lockers. Plasma TV sets for players to watch game tapes. It may make the Huskies feel good and look good but the bottom line is that they also have to play good to gain the respect which has been a long long time coming within the ACAC ranks.

That respect will also likely change, not over night though, with new four-year courses offered at the college, serious recruiting and full time coaches. And food for thought….Athletic Director Wade Kolmel is the first to realize that he will have plenty on his plate before the deserts start coming in way of banners. Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre. Build it and they will come. Trust me they will come.

Now it’s up to the good people at the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre to meet the challenge and vision to create and maintain a world class sporting facility.

Catch you on the rebound.