The official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new $8.2-million track and field facility at F.H. Collins Secondary School was held Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking at the event were members from Athletics Yukon and Soccer Yukon, two of the major user groups for the new facility, as well as dignitaries.
Federal funding for the project was achieved through the federal government’s Small Communities Fund through the Investing in
Canada Infrastructure Plan (ICIP) in 2018.
The track, which surrounds the soccer pitch, is an eight-lane, 400-metre rubberized track built to International Amateur Athletic
Federation (IAAF) standards. The artificial turf is regulation size for soccer – 68 metres by 105 metres.
Other features of the new facility include shot-put, steeplechase, and pole-vault areas.
There are two long jump pits, and one for high jump. As well, there is an area to set up posts and a net to play volleyball.
It was a project years in the making. In 2015, the Yukon Outdoor Sports Complex Committee was established and led by members of
the soccer and athletics communities.
Two years later, in May 2017, the territorial Departments of Community Services and Education pushed to find space to build the new complex for the sports community.
With the construction of the new F.H. Collins School, the site was identified as the ideal location – building the complex in Whistle Bend had also been mulled over.
Don White, speaking for Athletics Yukon, has been on the Athletics Yukon board since 1987.
White is also a track and field coach in the territory. He said it has always been a dream to have a real track and field facility to practise
and compete on.
“When the track was first discussed with Athletics Yukon, we pressed that it meets the world athletic specifications,” said White. “It
meets the requirements for Athletics Yukon to host national,
territorial, and international meets.”
White noted there is still a need for locations to host discus, javelin, and hammer throws.
“There are still things we need yet, including a lot of equipment, but we are so far ahead than we were when this project first broke down,” he said.
Athletics Yukon and F.H. Collins have already begun training on the new track. White hopes it will attract more athletes to running,
jumping, and throwing.
As well, he said the territory’s athletes will be better prepared for Outside competitions.
“Yukon athletes will arrive at competitions not having never worn racing spikes, never run on rubber, thrown in a real shot-put circle or
never long-jumped in a sandpit,” White said.
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell said the timing of the completion of the facility is “superb.”
“During COVID-19, it is very important for everyone’s physical and mental health to get outside and exercise,” said Bagnell.
“This is attached to two high schools. That’s an important signal to our students that physical education is an important part of life.”
Bagnell said he is excited to see the Yukon hosting national events at future dates.
Athletics Yukon plans to register the track to IAAF standards so the track may be used for national track and field meets in the future.
The new complex will also provide the Yukon with the ability to host national events and major games in the future, such as the Canada
+55 Games and Western Canada Summer Games. It also opens opportunities for Paralympic sports.
Invited to the opening but unable to attend because of COVID-19 concerns was Yukon para-athlete Jessica Frotten.
In a text message read by Community Services Minister John Streicker, Frotten said, “ To see a state-of-the art facility accessible to all is a dream come true. Sport for all. I can’t wait to come and get my first laps in at home.”
Streicker acknowledged both Soccer and Athletics Yukon for their years of work they’ve put into the new complex.
“Now we can start playing earlier, from little kids to people training,” he said.
Streicker also spoke to the COVID-19 pandemic and how sports can be a unifier in difficult times.
“COVID has pulled us apart, and that’s why I’m so excited about this track and field because sports bring people together,” he said. “It’s a great day for the Yukon; I’m so happy for the territory.”
Mayor Dan Curtis, who graduated from the old F.H. Collins 37 years ago, joked that if the school had the track when he was a student,
maybe he’d be an Olympian instead of a mayor.
Curtis noted that Riverdale has 5,518 residents, and this track will be of benefit to all.
“It is the largest neighbourhood in the Yukon,” said Curtis. “This is a wonderful opportunity to have spontaneous recreation and organized sport.”
The Canada Games Centre was built to enable Whitehorse to host the 2007 Canada Winter Games. Curtis spoke to the legacy facilities like the CGC leave.
“We have over 3,000 people who use the CGC,” said the mayor.
“These legacy projects are important for everyone. I know a lot of people will use this complex for many generations and I look forward
to the time when there are track and field, and soccer events here.”
After the formalities were over, it was time for some fun. Streicker challenged Yukon athlete Darby McIntyre to a race.
Before the contest, Streicker quipped that no matter the distance, McIntyre would surely kick his butt – this proved to be very true.
To use the facility, people are being asked to:
• wear clean footwear without metal nor screw-in cleats on the track and on the field;
• keep dogs and other animals off the facility (except service animals); and
• do not bring any food or beverages other than water into the facility.
Only non-motorized wheelchairs and strollers are permitted.