Saskatoon’s biggest sports project in history: Gordie Howe Sports Complex keeps on expanding and growing

Written by Darren Zary, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

October 4, 2018

What started as a football field upgrade has turned into the biggest sports project in Saskatoon’s history.

The transformation of the ever-expanding Gordie Howe Sports Complex is roughly a year away from completion. The $62-million project, which began with much smaller-scale plans back in 2011, has grown into something much more than anybody first imagined.

It’s become the biggest sports project in Saskatoon’s history.

Above: Johnny Marciniuk with the Friends of the Bowl Foundation leads a tour of the new development at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex in Saskatoon on Oct. 3, 2018 –  Matt Olson/Saskatoon StarPhoenix/Saskatoon

With the Friends of the Bowl initially leading the charge, the Saskatoon Minor Football (SMF) Field — featuring 5,000 seats and nine luxury boxes — has been completely upgraded, along with the Gordie Howe Sports Centre and surrounding plaza, for a $20-million-plus price tag.

Construction continues on a new dual track and field/speed skating oval facility, a 90,000-square foot multi-purpose indoor athletic performance and training centre, Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame, Nordic cross-country ski tracks, multi-sport operations centre for baseball, track and field, cross-country skiing and speed skating, plus a multi-sport plaza and ticket centre.

The training centre — a big building right across from the Gordie Howe Kinsmen Arena — has a completion date of Feb. 1.

Future plans also include a CFL-sized multi-purpose turf field, on the south side of the arena, to be used for football, lacrosse, soccer, rugby and ultimate Frisbee.

Above: An aerial view of the master plan for Saskatoon’s Gordie Howe Sports Complex.

It’s a massive project and undertaking. The only thing slowing things down these days is unseasonably cold weather, but otherwise, it’s full steam ahead.

“It brings tears to my eyes to see how hard they are working outside,” admitted Johnny Marciniuk, who sits on the Friends of the Bowl Foundation board.

“At SMF Field, we’re 100 per cent complete. Our track, we’re 99 per cent complete. We needed about five days of plus-10 track temperature, so 10-15 degrees Celsius, to keep us going. We’re going to finish up with our coatings and line painting next year. We’ll need five to nine days in the spring before the middle of May when we have our first bookings at the new track facility.”

Marciniuk gave an update and led a tour Wednesday. Representatives from Hub City Track and Field, Saskatoon Amateur Softball Association, Saskatoon Baseball Council, Saskatoon Football, Saskatoon Lions Speed Skating Club, Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club and Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame were also on hand.

“We got started at this in 2011 and it’s time we got this finished,” reasoned Marciniuk.

“We’ve been rolling here for about seven years. When we first got started, it was about a $6-million project and we said, ‘How are we going to raise $6-million?’ The community came through. We spent $20 million on the Saskatoon Minor Football field (turf), the plaza and building, with the bleachers and boxes. We’re looking at $42 million at the next stage and we have approximately $24 million in the bank and we have somewhere in the neighbourhood of $12 million to $15 million from both levels of government, provincial and federal, that will be coming our way and we have a number of asks that we know that are going to be successful here.”

Marciniuk says they’re looking for another $6 million to $8 million to complete the master plan.

“We hope to have everything finished by the end of 2019, with maybe some landscaping and beautifying to take place after that,” he said.

On Oct. 13, the new international-grade outdoor track will be converted into a speed skating oval when 147,000 square feet of armour cover — 12,345 tiles — will be laid over top for the winter.

“There’s a lot of work that’s going to get done in the next couple of weeks,” Marciniuk said.

By 2020, the track and field/speed skating facility will have seating for 1,850, expandable to 3,500, “which will allow us to host major meets,” he noted, calling the new track and field facility “the very best in Canada.”

The upgrade includes $366,000 in track and field equipment. Another $268,000 is being spent on baseball cages and high-tech baseball equipment.

“The only facilities we haven’t started are Field 2, which is our CFL-sized second field which will be fenced with scoreboard and lights, two outdoor fields and we have our beams in for our multi-purpose building, the baseball/track/speed skating/Nordic ski facility,” noted Marciniuk.

“Right now, we’re waiting for donations to come in and federal funding we’ve been told we’re eligible for. Once that happens, we’ll get rolling on everything.”