It’s a typical workday at the future site of Canada Games Park at the southeastern corner of Brock University campus in Thorold, Ont.
In one section of the sprawling, brown, muddy patch of land, an excavator is clawing at the ground, pulling up material which is loaded onto waiting rock trucks. Nearby, two dozer operators are pushing dirt.
Trailers have been set up on-site as temporary offices. Utility and sewer installs are underway and curbs are being shaped for the roadways.
Eighteen months from now, the site will be ready to host events for the Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games.
The park, at Sir Isaac Brock Boulevard and Merritville Highway, will eventually include a Sport and Abilities Centre, consisting of two ice pads, including one that will seat 1,200 spectators, a para-sport gymnasium, health and well-being facilities, a 200-metre indoor track for walking and running, and training facilities, six beach volleyball courts, a 400-metre outdoor track and field facility, and cycling pavilion.
A new Henley Rowing Centre is also scheduled to be built in Port Dalhousie that will include training facilities, a medical room and accessible changerooms. Details are still being worked out for that project.
“The project is currently on time,” says Doug Hamilton, chair of the Summer Games board of directors. “Much of the work currently is sitework preparation, foundations and footings. Steel will be arriving in April.”
Brampton-based Aquicon Construction has been awarded a $90-million contract to build the two projects. While Canada Games Park is underway, work on the Henley Rowing centre will start once the design is completed.
Time is of the essence for both projects as the venues must be completed in advance of the Games which are scheduled for Aug. 6 to 21, 2021.
The plan is to have all facilities required for the Games, namely the outdoor running track, beach volleyball courts and some of the interior of the Sport and Abilities Centre, ready in time for the start of competition. Some of the legacy projects, however, will be finished afterwards.
“All facilities that are required for the Games will be completed before the competition starts,” Hamilton explains. “But facilities or aspects of facilities that are not Games-time focused are what we call legacy-focused. Those projects have a perspective of leaving an infrastructure legacy for the community beyond the Games. So, as an example, the twin-pad ice box won’t be ready for any ice sports by Games time, but it will be ready to host lacrosse for the Games.”
Construction at the site began in December shortly after Aquicon, a family-owned company that was formed in 1986, was announced as the contractor for the projects.
Aquicon is no stranger to Niagara Region, as the company built the Gale Centre, a four-pad hockey facility in Niagara Falls, and the Vale Health and Wellness Centre in Port Colborne, a multi-use recreational facility that houses ice rinks, a fitness centre and pool.
The company was also responsible for the multi-million-dollar transformation of Niagara College’s Welland Campus, a massive construction project that significantly expanded the school’s programming, and in 2005 Aquicon completed construction of the $24-million MacBain Community Centre in Niagara Falls.
The Games project is creating local jobs as UEM, the project management firm, is based in Niagara Falls, and Aquicon president Daniel Aquino has committed to hiring local trades and is using many local subs. For example, Peter’s Construction Group is doing much of the gravel, paving and hardscape at the Games park.
The venture is a partnership between the Niagara Region, Brock University and the cities of Thorold and St. Catharines. The land, worth about $12 million, was part of the university’s in-kind donation to the Games.
Hamilton says the Henley Rowing Centre project, meanwhile, is currently undergoing a “value engineering exercise” to refine the project.
“The new Henley Rowing Centre has a sustainable design and is targeted to be an ultra-efficient, net-zero-energy facility. As a world-class rowing course, the facilities will be accessible, multi-purpose, training and event spaces.”
The Summer Games is expected to draw more than 5,000 athletes competing in 18 different sports, with competitions taking place across Niagara municipalities. The competition is expected to generate an economic benefit of $400 million in the Niagara Region and support more than 2,100 jobs during organization of the event.
The 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., resulted in a $92.4-million injection into the community, along with $110.3 million in overall economic activity for Alberta, and $19.6 million in visitor spending, according to a report prepared by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance.