Jeff Hnatiuk believes Sport Manitoba is on the cusp of taking sports to an altogether new level in the province -- for high-level athletes and the community.
The CEO of the non-profit organization that runs amateur sport in the province hopes to see shovels go into the ground for the second phase of its Sport for Life Centre facility this fall.
Plans call for a three-storey, 140,000-square-foot building to be built near Sport Manitoba's current facility -- which is phase one -- on Pacific Avenue.
The main floor of the new space will be dedicated to courts, with the ability to bring out different flooring to accommodate basketball, volleyball or badminton players.
Up one flight of stairs will be strength, conditioning and testing facilities for provincial-team athletes across all sports, including Canada Games and Western Canada Games athletes. The top level, which will have an indoor running track as well as strength and conditioning equipment, will be largely geared to the public, particularly people in the inner city.
"In our business model, we're looking at allocating close to 15 per cent of the programs and space to community use, inner-city use, at no cost," he said.
"We think it's extremely important to make sport accessible. We see the value in the physical-activity component and exposing kids to different types of sports."
It won't be a drop-in place but programs will be made available through Sport Manitoba's many provincial bodies.
"We feel because of where we're located that we can have a huge impact on the inner city," he said.
Adam Decker, sport performance manager at Sport Manitoba, said it will be working with the Salvation Army, drug-rehab programs, aboriginal groups and the Boys and Girls Club of Winnipeg.
"We're going to be focusing on the development of sports from the grassroots to the podium, hopefully. We'll also be doing sports-science delivery and working with strength and conditioning, physiology, our in-house sports medicine centre for rehab, like physiotherapy, athletic therapy and chiropractic. It's a multi-faceted approach," he said.
The capital cost of the new building is $23 million. Sport Manitoba has raised $7 million from the private sector over the past couple of years but it needs to raise $1 million more before it can finalize construction plans.
A final grassroots campaign has netted $300,000 but Hnatiuk is hoping sport-minded people will get out their chequebooks in the coming days. The Richardson Foundation, the charity arm of the Richardson family’s business enterprises, has agreed to match the donations up to $500,000, but the deadline is this weekend.
"Our hope is we'll get a last push where we'll get up to the $500,000 mark and get the full matching," he said.
Hnatiuk said he was quietly confident the foundation would extend the deadline by a few days to give stragglers to the cause a chance to help out.
A spokesperson for the Richardson Foundation was not available for comment.