January 19, 2020

By ANDREW OMRAN

The students of Conestoga College have done just about everything to get a varsity basketball team other than march to the recreation centre with pitchforks and torches. Their persistence may finally be paying off.
The college’s athletics  department has had some conversations about the need for a larger facility to accommodate the growing student population. If a new centre was built, varsity basketball teams could become a reality.
However, there is work to be done before that can happen. Athletic director, Marlene Ford, knows all too well the desire for basketball among students.
“Students come to me every year who want basketball and have for 10 years. We just don’t have enough gym time available to run the proper amount of practices nor do we have the gym time to host any home games.”
The solution, she says, would be to “build a new building. That’s the only way it’s going to happen.”
Simple enough. The students want it and the athletics department realizes they need it so let’s just build a new facility and expand the school’s varsity horizons. Unfortunately it’s not that easy.
“It’s not my decision. It has been talked about. The president (John Tibbits) is aware that we do need it. As far as I know, it is going to happen but I can’t tell you if it’s going to happen in three, five or eight years,” Ford said.
Paul Osborne, director of recreation and athletics at Conestoga College, knows the students desire a basketball  team and realizes that with the student body having more than tripled since athletics began at the college, it’s time for Conestoga to take a step forward in competing in athletics.
“We started in 1980 and probably had about 2,500 students at that point but now we’re around the 9,000 mark,” said Osborne.
“We very much would like to see a new building in the future plans and so we think that the timing is good to add that just because of the capacity that building already has during the day and in the evening.”
Osborne also wanted to make sure that everyone knew there would be many more uses students would get out of the new facility other than just basketball.
“The next component of that is to have free gym time for students to just drop in when it’s convenient for them whether it’s for basketball, badminton, volleyball or whatever it might be,” he said.
“There’s so many positives with getting a new facility but these things cost a lot of money and it’s not something that you just say ‘today, we’re going to build something new’; you have to figure out where that money’s going to come from.”
Should the students expect to pay for the new facility?
“I think it’d be a combination of things whether it would be college money, community money, whether CSI would become involved … I know they have always had a health and fitness agenda,” Osborne said.
With talks heating up, students will be wondering just how serious they are and when we can expect to hear an announcement regarding the facility.
“We’re just at the point where we are starting to look at the possibilities of what could happen in the future and what our future needs might be,” Osborne said.
“I am hopeful that something is going to happen. I really can’t put a date on it but, as director of athletics, I am always looking to improve what we have as the college grows and we are now the fastest growing college in Ontario.”
He added Tibbits is “very aware and very motivated when it comes to health and wellness for our students.”