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Local groups united in desire for Guelph Sports Council

Dozens of community members representing sports organizations throughout Guelph got together for a discussion on putting together a Guelph Sports Council

It was certainly a rarity: residents representing the athletics community gathered in one place at this scale.

But the hope is by establishing a Guelph Sports Council, gatherings like the one at city hall Thursday night will become a bit more common.

A two-hour town hall style meeting brought together about 30 different organizations, from youth sports groups, to officials at the University of Guelph, booking staff with the Upper Grand District School Board, the Guelph Storm, Guelph Royals and many more.

And the unifying message from around the room was the same: this council is needed.

"I think this is long overdue," Kerry Piccolotto, vice-chair of Guelph Soccer, told the group.

"I think we, collectively we, this is a really good opportunity for us to put our best foot forward at council because our council does it, other communities do this, other groups in the city are very good at this and I think for a long time, we haven't been."

It's not the first time this idea came up.

Sandra Pitts, a past-president of the Guelph Girls Hockey Association, pointed out she was part of a group with the Guelph Youth Sports Advisory Council trying to put together a group like this in 2014.

"Unfortunately, it kind of went nowhere, which was too bad," she said, adding a group also went to the Community Sports Council of Ontario in 2021 and got some tools to put together a council.

"There's cost to it, but they will provide support and resources and whatnot."

Youth groups are a big part of the focus, said Coun. Dan Gibson, who organized and hosted the meeting.

But it's not just for youth groups. 

"Perhaps the University of Guelph wants to partner, (or the) Guelph Storm," Gibson said.

"Those are partners that we want at the table to help promote not just participation, but advocacy for more sport infrastructure in the city."

Much of the discussion took place when staff provided a look at the $115.5 million South End Community Centre, which will formally be approved next Tuesday in its revised form after it got the green light at a committee of the whole meeting earlier this month.

It generated comments from groups, whether its the availability of facilities, the need for better facilities to bring in tournaments or sports meets, or alternative facilities like a full-size turf field so groups can get together and have programs run year-round.

There was consensus among council and staff that the new rec centre isn't going to make every group happy. But there was also talk the sports council could be engaged in the process to better suit the needs of more local groups.

Scott Stewart, the city CAO, said there's another benefit to having a unified voice and a formal group.

"There's advocacy that happens when you have a sports council," he said. "A city might go to Queen's Park, and 'Team Guelph goes with them. If 'Team Guelph' happened to involve a sport council member, that's a good discussion to have with the particular minister."

City staff also provided a briefing on the parks and recreation master plan in development.

A presentation of the draft master plan is expected to go to council by the end of the year.

But there is still a chance for public review and input.

"We will need all the different associations advocating through this process, but a broader association, perhaps encapsulating some unifying messages would be terrific for city council and city hall to hear," Gibson said.

In the next couple of weeks, Gibson said he's hoping to get an executive summary of the meeting together.

Within a month, he added he wants to strike a search committee to assemble applications for those interested in being a part of the sports council.

"I promise you, it will be as diverse as we possibly can, so that everyone's voice is heard and really work on those unifying messages," said Gibson.

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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Mark is a graduate of Canadore College in North Bay in 2011, and his decade-long career has taken him to a number of spots across Ontario in radio, digital and television broadcasting.
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