The coming changes to Sackville’s Sports Wall of Fame has been drawing concern from the community, including from some of the inductees themselves who say the town is taking a step backward with this move.
“My initial reaction was that it appears that the level of recognition has decreased for members of the Wall,” said Gail LeBlanc, an athlete who was inducted to the Wall of Fame in 2003. “And that digression for me indicates how their accomplishments are valued by the town of Sackville. How can it be seen as anything else?”
Town council approved changes recently to the Wall of Fame, which will see the 13 x 18 charcoal drawings of the inductees replaced with smaller plaques. The recommendation came from the Sports Wall’s board of governors.
Matt Pryde, Sackville’s manager of recreation programs and special events, explained recently that the display at the Tantramar civic centre has been getting a little short on space and the board has been discussing how to accommodate future inductees.
Under the previous governance guidelines, the inductees would receive a plaque in recognition of their achievements in the sporting world while a sketch marking their contributions would adorn the Sports Wall. This new change would switch up that process.
LeBlanc said as the conversation’s been heating up on this issue, she’s been hesitant to offer her opinion as she didn’t want it to be perceived she was upset that her picture will be taken down off the wall. There’s more to it than that.
“A face or a picture on a wall brings more “connectiveness” to the exhibit, and there is a better chance that will bring attention to the members whose compassion, dedication, sacrifice, and hard work led to some pretty special things. It acts as a means to motivate,” she said.
LeBlanc believes the philosophy behind any sports recognition hall or wall is that the recognition is to “honor the best and inspire the rest.”
“For me, I am most proud and hopeful that I might inspire. I would like to believe that my accomplishments will be seen by a young aspiring female athlete as “if she can do it, I can do it.”
LeBlanc said she has visited many sport halls/walls of fame across the Maritimes in community rinks, gymnasiums, and halls. She always takes the time to stop and read all of the bios, look at the pictures and memorabilia, and often finds inspiring stories along the way.
“I am not sure I would have even stopped to read names on a plaque,” she said.
LeBlanc said the “running out of space” issue seems to be a positive problem for the town to have.
“To have so many athletes, builders and teams from a small town warrant recognition is very impressive. I hope the town can find an alternative solution.”
John Peters, a longtime swim coach who was inducted in 2016 in the builder category, said he recognizes the town’s dilemma in trying to find the proper space to expand the Wall of Fame.
“It’s kind of neat to see the pictures there. I like what they have,” he said. “But if the town decides to do that, then I understand their decision.”
Peters suggested perhaps the town could consider alternate locations, where more space might be available to keep the charcoal drawings.
Wallie Sears, who has spent more than 65 years promoting sports in the Sackville area and was inducted to the Wall in 1993 under the builder category, said he believes the loss of the charcoal sketches will take away from the significance of being inducted to the Wall.
“The visual presentation will be somewhat restricted,” he said.
Sears, who was one of the original founders of the Sports Wall of Fame, said he’s disappointed he wasn’t consulted or asked for input on any of the proposed changes – and hasn’t been involved in those discussions for more than a decade now.
Local residents have also been expressing their concern over the coming changes.
“Surely there must be a ‘thinking outside the box’ alternative solution that would ensure the great sketches that currently adorn the civic centre walls can continue to be seen by local citizens and visitors,” Sylvia Morice commented on Facebook.
“The sketches add personality to the rink. A plaque does not give any character to the individuals shown in the sketches,” stated Debbie Reid, also via Facebook.
During council’s discussion over the changes last month, Coun. Shawn Mesheau questioned why the town seemed to be in such a rush to move this forward and noted he had received feedback from many concerned residents who indicated they would prefer to keep the charcoal drawings as part of the display. He suggested perhaps that could be achieved through some sort of digital presentation.