Students may not have to make the lengthy trip to Waterloo to catch Laurier sports teams in action for much longer. Previously there has been little love shown to Brantford in the sports world, but it appears the university is looking to make great leaps in the athletics department as it works toward building the Brantford campus to one of fifteen thousand students.
Those leaps are so great that according to Greg Stewart, Coordinator of Recreation & Programs at Laurier Brantford, we could very well see a new YMCA (complete with a pool, track and gym), new academic programs that are athletics-related and, most importantly, a couple of varsity sports teams.
While the YMCA and physical health-related classes are still in the very early stages of discussion, Stewart thinks that varsity sports are close.
“There are some programs that are on the radar right now,” said Stewart, “and they are now looking at one program to come down here next year, and then a couple to follow in the years after.”
“This is coming from the president down. It’s been mandated that we look at the options of expanding this department,” he said.
While Stewart was unable to comment on exactly what programs these may be, there is speculation that the school will likely choose either hockey or baseball as a start-up program. While both are a big draw in Waterloo, we have seen the hockey team play many games in Brantford over the years, including their recent game against Guelph over the Homecoming weekend. Brantford got its first taste of OUA baseball this year with a double-header against Western, and the turnout was terrific.
These are two of the few sports that our school has good enough facilities to host. The Brantford Civic Centre holds about 3000 and has been the home of OHL teams in the past. Arnold Anderson Stadium is also known as one of the premier baseball stadiums in Ontario, and holds upwards of 2000 people. Either one of these options present Laurier Brantford with the potential of a huge draw of interest, from participants and spectators alike.
One of the main issues will be keeping the players interested despite having to commute to Brantford for home games.
“How do you play a varsity team without having a program you are currently enrolled in?” Stewart pointed out. “It could be a couple of years if current players fold, but that will be a conversation we will have to have with the academic side as well.”
A possible response to this argument is that, currently, students at the Brantford campus are permitted to play on varsity teams in Waterloo, so the same should be true of the opposite.
When asked about support for teams in Brantford, Stewart was quick to point out the success of the games played here already this year.
“The reception has been good, baseball at the main campus usually receives from 10 to 100 people, and we had 140 here,” he said. “The more we brand ourselves in Brantford as a high-caliber sporting event to go and watch, there are definitely opportunities around Brantford, it is a sporting community,” he said.
No argument there – Brantford is definitely a sports town. Famed for being the home of Wayne Gretzky, home of the Blast who were the 2008 Allan Cup champions, and being the self-proclaimed “Tournament Capital of Ontario,” the city has a deep-rooted sports tradition. City Councillor Richard Carpenter furthered the sporting reputation, stating that having varsity sports will help the school become more in touch with the community.
At this point, the future of sports in Brantford is not official, but all indications seem to point to the fact that, perhaps unbelievably, we will see varsity sports in Brantford. While this has both fans and athletes excited, one can only hope that the economic state does not delay the process as experienced with the new University Centre.