Last week, Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope completed his annual address before a small crowd, discussing the community’s successes in business, investments in the Municipality, and ways Council and Administration are promoting Chatham-Kent; but one thing was missing, sports.
In terms of tourism, and promoting our community through success stories, sport is one of our greatest, untapped avenues. A new video the Mayor unveiled did show sporting activities, but his talk with locals, did not.
It’s obvious economic development in sport and recreation is on our Municipality’s radar, but it seems to be continually falling through the cracks, or failing due to mistakes.
From rumours of an OHL franchise relocating to Chatham-Kent, to businesses such as Canlan reporting they plan to move to our Municipality, it seems the sporting community, although doing their part to drive dollars into Chatham-Kent, are receiving no reciprocal investment.
If you compare the arena facilities in other communities such as Leamington, Strathroy, Techumseh, Essex, Komoka, St. Thomas, and LaSalle to our own, we are an outdated dinosaur.
Council is also discussing the closure of the Sydenham Pool in Wallaceburg, and are poorly investing funds into the maintenance and renovations of outdated and underutilized arenas such as Erickson, Bothwell, Memorial, and Wallaceburg, rather than consolidating, and investing in new facilities, that would bring successful events, and community pride.
So without a Municipally driven success story in the sports community, where should the Mayor have turned?
How about private investors like Up & Running celebrating their one year anniversary Downtown, and truly building a healthy and vibrant running and fitness community? How about the new skating rink outside the Downtown Chatham Centre?
Or if Chatham-Kent is really about “the people” as our promotions say, why not boast about TJ Brodie, Chris Clements, Derek Whitson, Seth Griffith, or any of dozens of successful athletes who spread the name of Chatham-Kent’s many communities across the Province, Country, and Globe?
If we do want an OHL franchise, why not boast about the several young men who are currently playing in the OHL from our community, and the huge wave of current and former Chatham-Kent Cyclones drafted to the OHL this season?
Even more, if we want to promote our educational institutions, talk about the college sporting events, and high school championships, and provincial championships, being hosted and won by our teams, and in our facilities.
Talk about the growth of our minor organizations, which are graduating more players to OUA and NCAA athletics, opening doors to post secondary education. Clubs like the Chatham-Kent Cougars, and new St. Clair JUEL basketball team are sending players to the next level.
Every single weekend, athletes and parents from across the Province and across the border, are travelling to Chatham-Kent for sports. To play our teams, to play our golf courses, and utilize our waterways. I would argue that in terms of showcasing our community, sports play a significant and central role.
It’s disappointing to see this overlooked by our Mayor in his annual address, and it’s disappointing to see some of our Municipally operated facilities in the state they are.
We are however, a community of sporting successes. Our athletes, teams, and organizations should be celebrated and promoted by our local government, because they are a selling point, and they are driving dollars into this Municipality.
Next year, as the Mayor stands in front of members of our community, I expect to hear our sporting community honoured equally, alongside the many other incredible things that are happening in Chatham-Kent.