By Nolan Kowal, Sport Performance Specialist
Have you heard about our exciting new project? We have teamed up with local author Sean Grassie to publish a book celebrating iconic stories from 150 years of sport in Manitoba.
All proceeds from the book will go to KidSport Manitoba, an organization that provides support to children in order to remove financial barriers that prevent them from participating in organized sport. Twice a month, we will be releasing a sneak peak of the stories from our book!
This month’s feature story is on an organization near and dear to our heart….it’s us, Sport Manitoba! Sport Manitoba came together in 1996 after the Manitoba Sports Federation and the government’s Sport Directorate joined forces. Since then, Sport Manitoba has been the leading planning, programming, and funding agency for the development of amateur sport in Manitoba. At Sport Manitoba, our goal is simple: we aim to ensure every Manitoban has access to the resources they need to achieve their full athletic potential, and we do this every day by developing the skill sets of Manitoba’s athletes, coaches, volunteers, and officials.
We believe that every Manitoban should have the opportunity to play and be active with the chance to compete at the highest level of their ability. Sport Manitoba, in partnership with over 100 provincial and community organizations, is committed to supporting and encouraging this journey and will continue to transform in an effort to accommodate Manitoba’s growing demand for diverse athletic opportunities. Read the whole story below:
Changing the landscape for amateur sport
Jeff Hnatiuk had important work to get to on his 36th birthday in 1996, his first day on the job as the first president and chief executive officer of Sport Manitoba. He was about to lead a new era of amateur sport in the province.
In the early 1990s, the provincial government set out to develop a new sport policy. The process focused on looking for efficiencies in the delivery system for amateur sport, which at the time included funding and programs administered by the government’s Sport Directorate and the volunteer-led Manitoba Sports Federation (MSF) that oversaw amateur sport in the province.
Ultimately, the Sport Directorate and MSF merged to establish Sport Manitoba, which was officially incorporated in 1996.
“It was a very exciting time because it was a significant change in the landscape of amateur sport,” said Hnatiuk, who noted two major sporting events in Manitoba, the 1999 World Junior Hockey Championship and 1999 Pan American Games, were being organized at that time.
The original board of directors of Sport Manitoba consisted of representatives from provincial sport governing bodies, government appointees, an education rep, an athletes’ rep, a provincial regional rep and a Manitoba Games rep. Paul Robson, a community leader and former Winnipeg Blue Bombers player and general manager, was named the first chair of the board.
“All the stakeholders in sport were represented around the table, and the model combining a government department and a volunteer-led federation was unique to sport delivery in Canada,” Hnatiuk said.
Sport Manitoba’s primary function is to partner with more than 100 organizations to deliver sport in the province. Sport Manitoba moved into its own building, a renovated 100-year-old heritage building on Pacific Avenue, with the 2010 opening of the Sport for Life Centre (later renamed the Canada Games Sport for Life Centre).
“That was a huge leap of faith,” Robson said of Sport Manitoba’s decision to own and operate its own building. As part of Phase 1 of the Sport for Life Centre, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and a sport medicine clinic became housed in the building. Phase 2 consisted of building the 124,000-square-foot Qualico Training Centre, which officially opened in 2017. The training centre had been a long-time vision for Sport Manitoba.
“It’s so cool now to see what we talked about at that table, about bricks and mortar, about having that home for Sport Manitoba, and now to see the Qualico centre and where all the athletes can train,” said Lisa Fraser-Gilmore, a world handball champion and member of the original Sport Manitoba board of directors.
The Qualico Training Centre, which features three full-size basketball courts, a track, numerous fitness and high-performance training amenities and services for the community, hosted basketball and volleyball events for the 2017 Canada Summer Games. The Canada Games Sport for Life Centre was the official legacy building of those Games.
“We thought if we could create a facility that combined sport administration with sport medicine, science, training, testing and heritage, it would be great for sport moving forward,” Hnatiuk told the Winnipeg Free Press.
When the Sport Manitoba facility was built, part of the vision for its downtown location was to meaningfully impact and develop the community, particularly in ways that reflect its mission – that every Manitoban should have the opportunity to play and be active. To that end, Sport Manitoba makes its spaces and service providers available to a wide variety of community programs.
Sport Manitoba initiatives have included establishing the Paul Robson Resource Centre for Leadership and Coaching, partnering with Doctors Manitoba to create the Fit Kids Healthy Kids program and administering the KidSport program across the province. Hnatiuk, who has held the post of president and CEO of Sport Manitoba since the organization began operations in 1996, has played a big role in moving forward amateur sport in the province. “It turns out we made the right choice,” said Robson, who was on the committee that selected Hnatiuk for the job.