Paddles up: Dragon boat festival pegs water sports centre as beneficiary

by Alyssa Ferreira | May 1, 2013

NWSC rendering

A rendering of the Northern Water Sports Centre, as prepared by Yallowega Belanger Architecture.

Since the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival began in July 2000, thousands of paddlers have been poised in their dragon boats at the start line, paddles in the air, waiting for the final command that launches the Sudbury’s race of the summer. For 13 years, festival day has been a fun-filled event that brings sport, team pride and community spirit to the shores of Sudbury’s picturesque Bell Park.

Dragon boat paddlers represent Sudbury in a boat: young, old, men, women, athletes and couch potatoes — all there to participate in a community event; all there to support a worthy cause.

The competitive spirit that drives teams to be first across the finish line is the same enthusiasm that motivates paddlers to collect the highest amount of pledges for the festival’s annual, pledge beneficiary. In the past 13 years, the festival has raised more than $1.4 million for local organizations, so this year’s pledge beneficiary — the Northern Water Sports Centre (NWSC) — has good reason to be excited.

“This is a great honour for us,” said Thomas Merritt, board chair of the NWSC. “Our pledging goal is $100,000 for the 2013 festival, which will bring the Sudbury community one step closer to having a new water sports centre.”

Paddlers and spectators at this year’s festival will be able to keep their eyes peeled on the construction of the new, 14,000-square-foot, fully accessible facility, across from Bell Park and next to the public boat launch on Ramsey Lake Road.

… the Northern Water Sports Centre is much more than bricks and mortar.

Beyond providing a suitable year-round home for the massive dragon boats, the announcement of the NWSC as the designated pledge beneficiary of this year’s festival will also ensure that Sudbury’s long legacy of excellence in water sports programs and events lives on.

The Sports Centre offers programs through its founding partners — the Sudbury Canoe Club, the Sudbury Rowing Club and the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival. Sudburians will have even more access to human-powered, on-water activities, such as paddling, rowing and dragon boating, and the equipment is provided to participants and the programs are accessible and affordable.

The NWSC’s reach is broad: its club partners offer programs that not only teach the mechanics of the sport, but instill discipline, structure, team building and a healthy lifestyle that can be enjoyed, for life.

“There are programs and events for high school and university students, First Nations, disadvantaged youth and people with disabilities,” Merritt said. “From day camps for kids, to masters rowing for people from middle age into their 70s, the club partners offer something for everyone, regardless of age or ability.”

Thanks to substantial support from Xstrata Nickel – Sudbury Operations, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, FedNor and the City of Greater Sudbury, the community capital campaign is now on the “Sprint to the Finish.” Launched in July 2012, the campaign has raised nearly $300,000 of its $500,000 target. Diana Henninger, chair of the campaign cabinet, spoke to the importance of the project to the community.

“Although the campaign is focused on raising the money needed to build this legacy project, the Northern Water Sports Centre is much more than bricks and mortar,” Henninger said. “It’s really about programs and people, offered by volunteers to a wide segment of our community.

“We’re thrilled that our supporters share these values and have seized this opportunity to invest in community infrastructure that will benefit so many. Thanks to the generosity that Sudbury is so well-known for, we are creating capacity to enable more of our citizens to embrace a healthy, northern lifestyle and learn new skills they can enjoy for a lifetime.”

For more information on the NWSC or to find out how to make a donation, visit nwsc.ca. For information about the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival or how to pledge a team, visit sudburydragonboats.com.

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Alyssa Ferreira is the communications co-ordinator for the Northern Water Sports Centre.

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