SACKVILLE, N.B. – Mount Allison University will play host to its first ever national championships when eight teams from across the nation appear here on March 14-17 to determine the best of the best in women’s basketball played at the Canadian College Athletic Association level.
The huge event is expected to bring as many as 150 players, coaches and managers to Sackville for the four days of competition in McCormack Gymnasium. This should also be a mini bonanza for the local economy, especially if local businesses are prepared to offer something original.
While Sackville has been unable to accommodate housing for this number – they will be housed at Crowns Plaza in Moncton – many of them will be in our community during much of that time.
Plans are well in place under the direction of Norval McConnell, an educator, athlete and community leader, and he has brought a shot of adrenalin with his energy and exuberance and love of his alma mater.
As this is being prepared, the actual teams that will be here to vie for the championship have not been decided – but the host Mounties, ranked number 9 in Canada – will definitely be in the mix and will help launch it by participating in the very first game on Wednesday night.
There will be two teams representing the Quebec conference, one each from Ontario and B.C and two from Alberta and the Atlantic Conference.
The Matt Gamblin coached hometown Mounties have run up a record of 13-5 in conference play this season and have ended regular play in second position, just behind powerhouse mount St. Vincent’s.
And it has already been announced that Kristen Mongold has been named Player of the Year in the ACAA after setting the bar high in all aspects of the game.
Also, believed to be a first, Thomas Legallais, has made it two-for-two by earning the same honour for the men’s Mountie team, thus giving the Mounties a sweep.
Meanwhile, McConnell has announced the national awards banquet will take place in Moncton on opening day when the CCAA will name its recipients.
He has also announced that the fine arts students are conducting a number of events during the tournament. Artists will use a variety of cameras and then compile a story of the event while a gift of art will be presented to each team member.
Earlier McConnell expressed a hope – the hope that this national tournament might light a spark that would end with an all-new athletic centre for Mount Allison. He likened this event to the appearance of Laval in the Uteck Bowl a few years and said it was from that game that the dream to build a new all-weather field and install bleachers and new scoring system began.
It was in 1989 that the Maritime Higher Education Commission described the local “sports palace” as obsolete even though it was only 29 years old. That was 29 years ago.
A good deal of renovations have been carried out since that time and a move was underway several years ago to launch a drive but when the cost was learned the project was placed in the dust bin.
It has been suggested replacing the existing building would equal the cost of building the Purdy Crawford Arts Centre. As an alternative, some have broached the idea of rehabbing the centre and add a field house that could include a number of features including change rooms for visiting football teams.
But nobody is seen holding their breath and so McConnell and members of the alumni and community will simply have to wait and hope.
Meanwhile, Sackville should be the place to be next week and the community must be prepared to show off its assets and its best face for all to see.