Stadium will serve as athletic hub
A touchdown dance is in the offing and chances are it will be a crowded end zone the weekend of Sept. 25-26, when the University of Lethbridge’s new Sports Stadium Complex is officially, and finally, opened.
Plagued by multiple weather delays over the course of its two-year construction, user groups from throughout southern Alberta are understandably elated that the finish line, or goal line, is now within sight.
“This has been in the works for a lot of years and to finally stand here on a turf field is just spectacular,” says Catholic Central High School football coach Mike Nightingale.
“It’s going to be just amazing on those Friday nights when the lights are turned on; it will be a spectacular atmosphere.”
The 2,000-seat, multi-use facility is the first of its kind in southern Alberta and a major addition to the University’s athletics program.
Having opened the 1st Choice Savings Centre for Sport and Wellness in February 2007, the addition of another elite-level venue further raises the status of Pronghorn Athletics.
The new stadium also strengthens the relationship between the University and the southern Alberta community. High school football and minor football will be major tenants in the fall, while the new artificial surface opens the possibility for use by soccer and rugby groups. As well, most major track and field meets will utilize the facility and the introduction of a junior football program to the city remains a possibility now that a suitable venue is in place.
“I see it being used 24/7 for track, rugby, football, soccer, it’s going to be an amazing thing,” says Craig Brack, Wilson Middle School principal and a longtime figure in local football circles. “It’s going to be great for fans to be able to come out and watch a game in the proper way. It’s first-class all the way.”
Bringing people to the University is a key priority for the institution and the stadium will do just that.
“The partnerships between the city and the U of L are very strong in terms of providing quality facilities for both our athletes as well as community members,” Manager, Facilities & Services, Deb Marek, says. “It brings people to campus who would not normally come to campus and that’s critical for us. There’s still that barrier with people coming across the river to the University, it can be seen as intimidating, and the more we host these events and bring the community here the better.”
The benefits for the community will be widespread but it will be most appreciable in what’s available to the city’s youth.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of events gravitate towards this facility. It will open up a lot of opportunities for our kids,” says Nightingale.