St. Clair College’s new, $26 million Sports Park was described Tuesday as “a game-changer” in the landscape of collegiate athletics.
Even Tennis legend Billie Jean King sent a congratulatory message for the opening of the Zekelman Tennis Centre, a standalone building within the Sports Park complex, and only one of a few hundred indoor tennis facilities in the country. “Tennis is a lifetime sport and it’s wonderful to hear about new investment in these challenging times,” King said in a message read by Tennis Canada director Anita Comella.
The new Sports Park will feature a 1,500-seat Soccer and Football stadium, a women’s Softball diamond, the four-court Zekelman Tennis Centre and a sand Volleyball complex.
The fully lit stadium features artificial turf and a press box. The field will be the home of the women’s and men’s varsity soccer teams, as well as home for the St. Clair Fratmen Football franchise.
“There is no question, this sports park is a game changer as we continue to strive to be a destination College in Ontario,” said Board of Governors President Nancy Jammu-Taylor.
The Sports Park was a decade in the making, after some of the College’s land was taken for the construction of the Herb Gray Parkway. “As a result, many of the St. Clair College athletic fields were diminished in some capacity, so we explored solutions,” said College President Patti France. Teams found off-campus fields on which to play. “It definitely has been our wish for the past decade to see the Saints come marching home on to campus, on fields and diamonds reflecting their excellence and to provide an atmosphere and amenities which would encourage substantial fan attendance.”
France praised the Student Representative Council and the Saints Students Athletic Association for their commitment to seeing the Sports Park to its completion. France said the student government groups will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the complex.
"The St. Clair College Sports Park is our new home, it’s our new house," said SSAA President Michael Beale. "Now we wait for teams from all over the province and country to step onto these fields and face our Saints."
France also thanked the Windsor Family Credit Union, Domino’s Pizza CEO Michael Schlater, Barry and Stephanie Zekelman and Ace Acumen Academy for their financial support toward the project.
Barry Zekelman, who is the President and CEO of Zekelman Industries, said he and his wife Stephanie are both tennis enthusiasts. “Athletics is a passion of ours and our family,” he said. “I know how much it means to not only be academically sound but be physically sound.”
Zekelman said his family is proud to support the College, which he described as “a vital part of the community.”
Zekelman said he grew up around the corner from the campus in South Windsor and “to see where it is today from where it came from is remarkable.”
The Zekelman Tennis Centre will be open to the public as well as students.
Ron Seguin, Vice President International Relations, Campus Development & Student Services, painted a picture of a future Saturday at the Sports Park, where there would be a hub of activity as the soccer teams, the softball team, the St. Clair Fratmen, beach volleyball players and tennis players step onto their fields and their respective courts.
"You could have about 2,600 people showing up to this facility on that Saturday," Seguin said. "That was the concept behind the Sports Park. We traveled all throughout Michigan, looking at great schools, taking their best features and putting them all together to come up with what you're seeing today. It's going to be the premiere sports facility in the Canadian College system."