Categorized | Sports

Fort Macleod Volleyball Club proposes building facility

chelsie wolff
Chelsie Wolff

A local sports organization is proposing that Fort Macleod expand on its reputation for excellence with construction of a 27,000 sq. ft. volleyball centre.

Fort Macleod Volleyball Club pitched the idea of building a four-court volleyball and event centre near Westwinds Stadium.

“With a facility like this we believe that we would be the envy of other communities,” Chelsie Wolff said.

Wolff and Mike Bourassa appeared as a delegation at the Feb. 22 council meeting at the G.R. Davis Administration Building.

Council approved the project in principle and directed administration to prepare a report.

Wolff began the presentation with some history, noting the club is an umbrella organization for the adult co-ed league, STARS and alumni tournaments and the youth club. 

Fort Macleod Volleyball Club was founded in 1984. In its last year of operation it had 16 teams or about 150 players.

“For a community our size that’s pretty good,” Wolff said.

Teams are made up of families, businesses and friends, with players ranging in age from 16 to 60 years.

The league is now based out of the gymnasium at W.A. Day school.

Fort Macleod has hosted the STARS charity tournament for 19 years, funding more than 30 rescue missions by the helicopter.

“This tournament has increased in participation every year,” Wolff said.

In its most recent years the STARS tournament had 400 players taking part.

The STARS tournament is held at Fort Macleod and District Sports Centre, using portable volleyball courts rented from Calgary.

The annual alumni tournament is a fund-raiser for the volleyball program at F.P. Walshe school.

The most recent alumni tournament had 12 teams and more than 100 players taking part, which Wolff said is impressive for a small community.

“We don’t know any other small community that hosts an alumni tournament, and we do so with great participation,” Wolff said.

The youth club is a new initiative to further the development of young volleyball players.

The club got its start from a summer volleyball camp that provided players intense training immediately prior to the start of the school teams’ seasons.

A school in a neighbouring community sent its entire team to be trained by Fort Macleod’s coaches.

The club was about to host a 14-team tournament in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down.

“Despite this setback we are excited to get this program up and running as soon as we can,” Wolff said.

By focusing on volleyball, Fort Macleod could build a success story similar to Warner’s hockey program and Vauxhall’s baseball academy.

“It is our belief that no one in southern Alberta can do volleyball like we can,” Wolff said. “We have a strong foundation. Fort Macleod has a long history of excellent coaches.”

People in the community who had positive experiences as volleyball players now want to provide others with the same opportunity.

Fort Macleod also has a track record of hosting successful sports events.

The town also has a strong pool of volunteers from which to draw.

“We truly have amazing people here,” Wolff said.

The Fort Macleod Volleyball Club is predicting rapid growth following the pandemic.

That growth is limited however, due to restricted court availability as well as the need for a larger facility to host the STARS tournament’s social component.

The solution is a Fort Macleod Volleyball Centre that includes a four-court gym about twice the size of the F.P. Walshe school gym with an 11-row bleacher set.

The centre would include change rooms, a kitchen, and an outdoor patio.

“We are planning a volleyball first, multi use facility,” Wolff said.

The centre can be used for other purposes and sports, with the bleachers collapsing to create more space, and dividers available to create smaller areas.

Wolff suggested the centre could be used for banquets, weddings, conferences and grad events, with seating for close to 1,000 people.

The building would have a second floor with offices, storage, washrooms and a viewing area overlooking the courts. It could be rented for private events.

Just off the outdoor patio would be a green space with picnic tables, as well as an area for beach volleyball courts.

The volleyball club proposes building the centre at the corner of First Avenue and the access road to Westwinds Stadium.

The volleyball club asked council for a 50-year lease of the town-owned property at a cost of $1 per year, with a waiver of property taxes for that period.

Fort Macleod Volleyball Club will raise the money to build the centre on its own.

“I want to be very clear on this point,” Wolff said. “We are committed to raising the funds to build this facility without seeking further investment from the town or its taxpayers.”

Coun. Jim Monteith said he is confident the club can raise the money to build the centre, but wondered about ongoing finances.

“Are you going to be able to generate enough revenue to operate a building like that?” Monteith asked.

Wolff said programs offered in the past have been self-sustaining, and the club is confident rentals will generate enough money for operations.

Mike Bourassa said the club first wanted council’s approval of the idea before it developed a business plan.

“I think our goal for this building is for us to be running and using it within five years,” Bourassa said.

In response to a question from Monteith, Bourassa said construction is estimated to cost between $2-million and $5-million.

Coun. Gord Wolstenholme said he supported a venture that will provide opportunities for young people.

“If it’s not going to cost the taxpayer anything I think that’s super,” Wolstenholme said.

Councillors Kristi Edwards, Werner Dressler and David Orr welcomed construction of the centre in that location and agreed it was worthwhile to pursue the idea.

“This is a great initiative,” Mayor Brent Feyter said, suggesting an area structure plan might be needed.

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