In many cities across Canada, there is an organization that functions as a support network for local sports groups, connecting and engaging them through common goals.
Earlier this year, an organization called the Central Alberta Sports Authority was born with that exact idea in mind, as a result of the long-term legacy from the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“A key realization was that we did not have a single voice or representative voice for our community sports groups,” said Central Alberta Sports Authority board co-chair Al Ferchuk.
“They realized in the bidding process that some of our main competitors… had a well organized municipal or at arm’s length municipal organization such as sport councils that coordinated their bids.”
The sports authority established its first nine-member board of directors earlier this year and after multiple delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic, held the first virtual meeting with 28 local sports organizations in November.
Reaching out and gathering information about what support sports groups need around central Alberta was a big first step for the sports authority.
“We wanted to validate what are the needs of sports groups to be successful and thrive,” said Ferchuk, who is co-chair along with Iaian Park.
Among other things, groups noted that volunteers are stretched thin and don’t have time to organize bids for big events or coordinate with other groups.
The sports authority will be able to provide resources and mentorship for those organizations who struggle in any facet of their operation.
Ferchuk noted that the authority also wants to leverage the facilities in the area and the geographical advantage that central Alberta has in terms of hosting large scale events down the road. As part of their mission, they also hope to foster athlete development.
He said that within the local sports community, there is deep knowledge about how to host those events, but it doesn’t always get passed on from one group to another. That’s where the sports authority hopes to bridge the gap.
“The opportunity coming out of COVID – it’s created a vacuum that the Central Alberta Sports Authority feels they want to be ready to offer opportunities to provincial sport organizations; to national sport organizations and to local sports groups to have people come and enjoy our community,” Ferchuck said.
The sports authority now needs funding from local businesses and the community to achieve financial stability. Ferchuk noted that down the road, he hopes the group can help create a vision that sports can also be an economic driver for the region.
“The outcomes of sport, if you want to talk economics – don’t just think about hotels and restaurants. Think about businesses that sell sports equipment to kids in central Alberta year-round. Think about the private clubs,” he said.
“The economics are vastly underrated.”
Ferchuk added the authority is looking to connect with more local sport groups in the new year and encouraged any of them to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the inaugural Central Alberta Sports Authority board of directors include Ron Lariviere, Rob Litwinski, Nicole Lorrain, Laura Naldrett, Trent Rix, Doug Spicer and Russ Wlad.