New grant program geared to sport and recreation facilities

By Lethbridge Herald on May 3, 2024.

New grant program geared to sport and recreation facilitiesNew grant program geared to sport and recreation facilitiesJoseph Shaw, Minister of Tourism and Sport, kicks a soccer ball, with Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf and a group of youth soccer players on Friday at the Servos Sports Center. Shaw and Neudorf were at the center to introduce a new funding initiative for sports and entertainment facilities. Herald photo by Dillon Shortz

Dillon Shortz – Lethbridge Herald – dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

At six feet tall, Tourism and Sports Minister Joseph Shaw stands out in a crowd. Pair a dark suit with loud, brightly colored sneakers, and he’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

But that may have been the point during a media gathering in Lethbridge on Friday. Shaw’s sneakers made one statement — he was ready to kick some footballs, which he did — while his relatively muted suit said he had something important to say.

“Today, it is my pleasure to launch the new Active Communities Initiative,” Shaw said. “Through Budget 2024, the Government of Alberta is investing $30 million to build or enhance sports and entertainment facilities that inspire, connect and enrich the lives of all Albertans.”

Shaw, with Nathan Neudorf, Lethbridge East MLA and Minister of Affordability and Facilities; Chris Witkowski, Alberta Sports Leadership Association Board Member; Susan Eyman, executive director of the Lethbridge Sports Council, made the announcement at the Servos Sports Centre, where a small group of soccer players kicked a ball in the background.

“I know how important access to sports and recreational sports facilities is for children as they grow,” Shaw said.

“It teaches teamwork, builds confidence and promotes healthy lifestyles that continue into adulthood. But the benefits of being active don’t just stop when you’re a kid. It’s been proven that at every stage of life, being active positively impacts physical, social and emotional health.”

Shaw noted that he grew up in a rural community in Ontario and had to drive 30 minutes to a recreational facility to play basketball.

“How much better a player could I have been if there was something closer to home?”

Neudorf explained that the initiative is open to eligible community groups, non-profit organizations and associations, as well as First Nations and Métis settlements who want to build or enhance spaces that support sports and recreation in their communities. The grant is for small and medium-sized projects, including indoor and outdoor rinks, community pools, indoor turf centers, pickleball courts and other sports and recreational facilities.

“These investments are more than just building and enhancing sports and entertainment facilities,” Neudorf said.

“They are an investment in our health, our communities, our economy and our future. I look forward to seeing how this new initiative stimulates activism and strengthens our communities in every corner of our county.

This initiative is the first grant program to focus exclusively on financing sports and entertainment infrastructure. Starting this month, eligible organizations can submit an expression of interest before submitting a more detailed package during the second round of applications.

The initiative is a matching funds program and has two tracks for potential projects. Stream single fund projects from a minimum of $100,000 to a maximum of $500,000, while stream two fund projects from a minimum of $500,001 to a maximum of $1.5 million. Large-scale sports and entertainment infrastructure projects will continue to be funded through the government’s capital plan.

“We were excited when we heard that the Alberta government would be introducing the Active Communities Initiative,” Eyman said.

“Sports and recreation are essential to the health and well-being of all Albertans, and communities need dedicated spaces for these activities, which is exactly what this initiative will help achieve.

Eyman said the Sports Council’s vision is for Lethbridge to be an inclusive and accessible sports community where individuals and families can connect with others and feel part of the community, and where everyone has the opportunity to participate in organized sports.

“The Active Communities Initiative is a much-needed step towards ensuring that everyone who wants to participate in sports and recreational activities can. This initiative will help build happier, healthier communities.”

Groups interested in learning more about the Active Communities Initiative, including guidelines, how to apply and who to contact for additional questions, can go online https://www.alberta.ca/active-communities-initiative.


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