The long and harsh winters are set to get a bit warmer for sports fans in Central Alberta.
Nearly three years in the works, The Dome Sports announced construction on their state-of-the-art indoor sports dome at Gasoline Alley. Construction was started in the spring and the facility is on track to open in the fall of 2019.
It will feature a full length 11-versus-11 soccer pitch, a major league infield baseball diamond, batting cages, a multi-purpose field/ kids zone and a high-performance centre.
“Earlier this year, we got approval from the county. I’ve been working with them for a few years now. They are very much behind it and excited. Few different locations until we ended up where we are now and we’re super excited about it,” said Noah Welch, general manager of The Dome Sports.
“Good solid group of local investors. We went pretty much all-Canadian on everything that we purchased. Really, really excited about how everything came together.”
Welsh, 36, who played 75 games combined with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Atlanta Thrashers, is a key driver for the project. Originally from Brighton, Mass., Welch spent the past seven years playing hockey in Europe, before moving to back to his wife’s hometown of Red Deer and settling in Red Deer County.
It was then the former pro discovered the need for an indoor sports dome. After conversations with local investors and several American connections, such as Bo Jackson and others who have similar projects, Welch started to work on that dream here.
“A buddy of mine who is connected with soccer, just talking one day over coffee, and he mentioned how we need indoor turf. I was thinking about how to stay around sports,” said Welch, who added the project has been in the works for almost three years.
“He mentioned a dome. I did a lot of research and got linked up with Jim Thompson and Bo Jackson, who have a few domes in the U.S. They were a huge help.
“Their business model in the U.S. is very similar to what we’re going to do.”
The facility, which has been approved as a 124,663-square-foot sports dome, will be built in Energy Business Park on the east side of Highway 2 near Gasoline Alley. The expected cost is about $8 million.
Welch noted the idea for the facility is to be able to rent it out to user groups, as well as offer their own training programs to help local athletes develop.
He’s already been in contact with Red Deer City Soccer Association, Central Alberta Soccer Association, as well as baseball, rugby, football and lacrosse organizations across the region.
“Off-season skill development for non-winter sports. It’s just evolved really. Very long winter in Alberta and because of that, indoor turf is needed.
“So is really good quality coaching and training, and I think if we bring that to Central Alberta, the training and the coaching, it will have some really exciting results,” Welch said.
“We do our own in-house clinics and camps and training. That’s what we’re known for. We also cater to user groups to come in and rent. Our primary focus is skill development– we want to take kids from different organization and teams, come in and make them better and send them back out to their team.”
Once the site is finished later this summer, and the dome arrives, there is about a month or so worth of work on the inside. They will install the field turf, set up the batting cages and weight room.
“That will take the whole month of September and a bit of October, but being open mid-October is when we feel comfortable we should be good to go,” he said.
For more information on the sports dome, check out www.thedomesports.com/