Saint John Field House prepares to open; already booking events
It has taken a decade to go from the drawing board to opening day, but that day is fast approaching at the greater Saint John Field House -- a facility that promises big changes for the New Brunswick sports community and for sports tourism in the region.
Work is still underway both inside and outside, where a field has been transformed into the Greater Saint John Field House.
"This is bigger. It's a national-calibre facility that allows us to host events, is much more multi-functional than any of the original plans, it allows us to bring events in that we at first wouldn't have thought of," said Bill MacMackin, president of the Saint John Field House.
The $27-million project includes two full-size turf fields -- and features that were inspired by other facilities coast to coast.
"There's bits and pieces of many of those facilities here," MacMackin said. "The turf very much matches other facilities I visited in Winnipeg and the Toronto area, and also in Halifax."
The field house is also home to 74 child-care spaces.
The entire complex will be managed by the Saint John YMCA -- the biggest undertaking ever for the YMCA.
"So we feel this is going to grow the number of people we are reaching," said Saint John YMCA President Shilo Boucher. "And also, with the field, which is something brand new for our Y, actually brand new for Ys across the country, so this is cool that our Y in Saint John will get the chance to show how this might work."
Sports groups are already showing an interest.
"Initially we opened up bookings just for the fall, and so far, we have approximately 80-90 per cent of our prime time booking space full," said Mike Daigle, the Saint John YMCA vice-president of recreation.
That's a good sign, since the field house is supposed to operate without government support.
"This facility is completely independent," MacMackin said. "It has to stand on its own two feet and it has to operate without any subsidy from the city or any of the other regional communities."
The facility will be opening in stages over the coming weeks, starting Sept. 3, and already there are national sporting events and championships that have been booked that wouldn't have been coming to Saint John if it weren't for the new facility.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron.