Gordie Howe Sports Complex to get more needed upgrades

Written by Darren Steinke

May 27, 2017

Hilltops football team runs onto the field

There are times you almost forget how much actually happens at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.

The massive sports park named after hockey icon Gordie Howe and located in Saskatoon’s Holiday Park neighbourhood is best known as the home of the storied Saskatoon Hilltops of the Canadian Junior Football League and the legend building Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. Both teams play out of Saskatoon Minor Football Field, which was once known as Gordie Howe Bowl.

If you visit the Gordie Howe Sports Complex on any week night during the spring, you will see football is just a part of all the action that goes on there.

Besides the football stadium, the Gordie Howe Sports Complex is also home to eight softball diamonds including Gordie Howe Softball Diamond, five baseball diamonds including Cairns Field, the Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval and the Gordie Howe Kinsmen Arena.

In order to keep all the facilities at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex going, you need to keep constantly maintaining and upgrading them. That is where the Friends of the Bowl Foundation not-for-profit group has stepped up so admirably.

Formed in 2013, The Friends of the Bowl Foundation launched a forward-thinking initiative to raise the funds that were needed badly to refurbish the Complex’s aging football stadium.

Numerous user groups have relished holding functions at the new clubhouse facility, which includes a huge and well used banquet space and patio on the second floor. The hours of play available on the field have increased from 300 hours a year to 1,200 hours a year.    That initial campaign raised over $11.6-million resulting in a new field turf playing surface, scoreboard, sound system, upgraded lighting, state of the art clubhouse complex, an enhanced entrance place and a new ticket booth.

Now, the Friends of the Bowl are making a push for more upgrades. The current push is already seeing the installation of 5,000 seats and nine boxes at SMF Field. The seats and boxes were made available from the Grey Cup Legacy Project, and they come from old Mosaic Stadium in Regina.

Under the Grey Cup Legacy Project, the Government of Saskatchewan partnered with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders to distribute the seats and boxes to communities throughout Saskatchewan. The contribution of the seats and the boxes is valued at $4.1-million.

The upgrades at the Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval will include a new timing board, safety mats, new grading of the track and paving around the timing buildings. The upgrades at the Gordie Howe Softball Diamond will include a new backstop that meets national standards.    Friends of the Bowl is raising $5.9-million to transport and install the seats and boxes, upgrade the speed skating oval, replace the backstop at Gordie Howe Softball Diamond and enhance the parking lot and entrance plaza lighting.

With the upgrades that have already been made to the Gordie Howe Sports Complex, the current backstop’s lack of height is a bit of an issue considering how close the softball diamond is to the entrance plaza, parking lot and clubhouse building.

The Friends of the Bowl should be applauded for their continuing push to constantly improve the Gordie Howe Sports Complex. The volunteer board of directors of a solid group of community leaders headed by chairperson Bryan Kosteroski. Kosteroski has played a large role in helping build minor softball in Saskatoon and is currently the president of the Saskatoon Amateur Softball Association.

The current fundraising campaign, which is called the Legacy Campaign, is being co-chaired by business leader Greg Yuel and former CFL player Quinn Magnuson. Both have made positive contributions to Saskatoon.    Another key member on the board has been Johnny Marciniuk, who is the operations manager for Saskatoon Football Incorporated and a vice-president with Football Saskatchewan. Marciniuk can seemingly always be found at SMF Field doing all sports of little work with the facility and its daily operations.

During a Valkyries home game on May 13, Friends of the Bowl announced a roster of partners including the Saskatoon Baseball Council, Saskatoon Amateur Softball Association, Saskatoon Track and Field Club, Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club, Saskatoon Football Incorporated, Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate, Hilltops, Valkyries, Saskatoon Lions Speed Skating Club and the City of Saskatoon. All of those groups are impacted by what goes on at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.

The best part about the Gordie Howe Sports Complex is it continues to be shaped and improved by the community for the community. Any efforts to raise funds to make improvements to it should always be welcomed.    The Gordie Howe Sports Complex holds countless practices, games and events each year involving over 25,000 local athletes and coaches. Currently, over 10 provincial, national and international events are held on average at the Complex each year. With upgrades, the Complex will likely hold more of these types of events.