By mid-summer, the Northern Water Sports Centre (NWSC) is expected to become a reality, bringing to life the dreams of countless volunteers who have worked on the project, dating back more than a decade now.
In the meantime, it's business as usual for the three water-based organizations leading the charge for a new venue. The Sudbury Canoe Club, the Sudbury Rowing Club and the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival all continue to operate from the facility at the foot of Elizabeth Street, on the shores of Ramsey Lake until the move is complete.
Still, on a brief walk-through of the new building — nestled between the Sudbury Yacht Club and the municipal boat launch — it's pretty clear why the NWSC board is so excited.
"Every few decades or so, things need to expand," said NWSC chair Thomas Merritt, while walking through the new building. "That existing corner of the park (Bell Park) is really tight."
As plans started to come together, so did critical financial support.
Xstrada, FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund committed $1 million each, while the City of Greater Sudbury donated another $500,000, as well as the $2-million parcel of land the centre sits on.
"We're already working together in ways that we have never worked together before," Merritt said. "That's part of the success of this project, getting all of these partners to work together, because at the end of the day, we have shared goals — (to) get more people active, out on the water, having a good time, enjoying one of the best parts of living in Northern Ontario."
Replacing the current centre also means any oversights or deficiencies can be corrected.
"We are looking at a three-per-cent grade from the lake, so that it's wheelchair accessible," said Bob Humphries, an NWSC board member and the unofficial construction consultant of the group. "The whole project revolves around accessibility."
In addition, where the existing club does not provides few amenities for parents or water sport fans, the new NWSC features both an upstairs lounge area, which can accomodate receptions of about 100 people, and a terrace blessed with a spectacular view of Ramsey Lake.
"You want a space that welcomes everybody in," Merritt said. "With a space like this, even if you're doing things like trying to promote camaraderie in a club, you can come in here, because it works for everyone."
In fact, the facility will be available, to some extent, for public rental, most notably during the off-season.
"What we've tried to do is to put things together that will help each of the partners do what we do better, but also to integrate better into the community," Merritt said. "We want many different people involved, many different viewpoints. We want this entire facility to be successful in a way that we could not have been where we were located.
"This facility would not have been constructed if we were approaching this from a "what's best for the rowing club?", "what's best for the canoe club?" perspective.”
The NWSC is looking to open its doors — and its docks — in July. Further information, visit the NWSC website at www.nwsc.ca