New athletic facilities and partnerships make UBC a community sport magnet
Karol Mikulash, an IT consultant and father of two living in Kitsilano, doesn’t work for UBC but is on campus as often as many students. Hockey brings him to the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre up to five times a week.
His sons take part in UBC’s youth hockey programs and summer hockey camps. The family comes for drop-in events and Mikulash sometimes plays at UBC through the Kerrisdale Old Timers Hockey Association.
“When I see my kids smiling and laughing on the ice, that’s a success because the focus is about having fun,” he says.
Both of Mikulash’s sons started in Ice Mice, learning basic skills and playing 3-on-3 hockey with other 4-6 year olds. Now his youngest son Simon has moved up to the Rink Rats, the league for 7-10 year olds. His eldest son Peter plays Thunderbird Pee Wee hockey.
No longer the preserve of varsity athletes and rec teams, UBC athletic facilities have become community hubs, drawing in students, youth, adults, professional athletes, and nearby residents.
“It’s one of our key goals to expand opportunities for recreational and high-performance sport on campus so more students and community can participate,” says Kavie Toor, associate director of facilities & business development for UBC Athletics and Recreation.
Over the past five years, UBC has gained a new baseball field, track, soccer and multisport fields, ice facilities, high performance training facilities and a Sports Hall of Fame. Thunderbird Stadium has received major makeovers. A tennis centre and rugby pavilion have been built, soccer facilities are under construction and there will soon be a new Aquatic Centre.
“Our sport partnerships enable us to provide a lot of profile so we can grow our grassroots programs.”
“We’ve been very successful in building new and better facilities and an increasing number of people are using them,” says Toor.
Since 2008, use of UBC athletic facilities has grown by more than 25 per cent – thanks in part to new partnerships between UBC and groups like the Whitecaps FC.
In September 2012, UBC and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced that the campus would be the home of a new National Soccer Development Centre training facility. The centre includes two new artificial fields, three grass fields, and a fieldhouse. More than 50 per cent of the field time is earmarked for community programs.
UBC’s Doug Mithcell Thunderbird Sports Centre by the numbers
17 Olympic hockey games
20 Paralympic sledge hockey games
20 hrs/week – public programming
60 hrs/week – student use
60 hrs/week – youth hockey
55 hrs/week – adult hockey
60 adult hockey teams
80+ hockey games per week
3,300 skates sharpened per year
7 NHL teams – practices and media events
1 Whitecaps dressing room
Adds Toor, “our sport partnerships enable us to provide a lot of profile so we can grow our grassroots programs. It’s a way to connect high performance sport to recreation legacies.”
The re-developed Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre opened in 2008, ready to host the world during the 2010 Winter Games. Three years later, the sports complex, with its three hockey rinks, 13 dressing rooms, seating for 5,000 in the main arena and LEED Silver certification, draws more than 650,000 spectators and users annually.
Athletics and Recreation has dedicated more than 60 hours each week for student use, 115 hours for community youth and adult hockey programs, and another 20 hours for public drop-in programs.
The quality of the athletic facilities draws people to UBC but so does the prestige and excitement of playing on the same fields or rinks as some of Vancouver’s top athletes.
If you’re an NHL fan, the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre is one of the best places to catch your favourite Canuck player. The Vancouver Canucks frequently use the arenas for practise.
For the past two years, the main arena has held the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. Canada made tennis history at February’s Davis Cup event when it beat Spain to move on to April’s quarter-final round for the first time. Next year, the venue will host some of the 2014 Special Olympics Summer Games.