Speed skating oval could attract athletes to Halifax


Many hope the Canada Games Oval will become permanent to draw athletes to Halifax. (Photo: Corey Davison)

Susan Chisholm, president of the Dartmouth Speed Skating Club, says that making the Canada Games Oval permanent would create new opportunities for Nova Scotia speed skaters and attract more athletes to universities in Halifax.

"If you're a young athlete and speed skating is your love, even if you're going to put it on the backburner, you don't want to give it up for four years. So you might very well choose a city or community that has what it is that you like to do."

Eric Towers is a first-year engineering student at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. He played hockey for 12 years before taking up speed skating in 2008. During high school, Towers trained at the Olympic Oval in his hometown of Calgary, Alta. and was reluctant to move to a city without a long-track.

"I miss speed skating every time I work out, especially my legs, or look at a hockey rink or anytime athleticism is brought up for that matter," said Towers.

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Eric Towers said he would come to Halifax for the oval if education measured up. (Courtesy of Eric Towers)

Enlarge Map
This map shows all the speed skating ovals in Canada. The blue markers are outdoor facilities and the red markers are indoor.

When asked whether he would ever switch universities to continue training, Towers said it would depend on academics.

"If the engineering program offered at Dalhousie was at the same caliber as the one that Queen's offers, then I would go."

Shawn Fraser, senior manager of programs at the Dalplex said that the chances of speed skating becoming a varsity sport are low.

"It's not that I'm saying we couldn't have a speed skating club or even a competitive club if there were Dalhousie students who wanted to pursue that.

"As an official university sanctioned sport however, there needs to be a network for them to compete in and there's not that network for them to compete in right now other than going through what's offered at a provincial or national level."

In order for speed skating to be a varsity sport, at least three or four schools would have to agree to make it one so there is local competition.

Athletics director at Saint Mary's University, Steve Sarty, echoes Fraser.

"I think it's another drawing card to Halifax but I can't see the universities ever engaging in it. We're not at the point where we're trying to go out and find new varsity sports," said Sarty.

This is because of financial challenges. Sarty and Fraser both said that they are having difficulties funding existing athletic programs. For this to even be considered, the oval would have to become a permanent fixture on the North Common.

"I think it makes great sense for the oval to stay open long term," said Sarty. "I've had my family down there numerous times and it's honestly been the most pride I've felt for Halifax."

He also said that he would not mind if the city hikes taxes if it means that the oval would stick around for everyone to enjoy.

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