Close to 50 squash players, local dignitaries, businesses, and non-profit volunteers from across Greater Trail celebrated on Wednesday the opening of the first regulation-size squash court in the Trail Memorial Centre with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception.
Up until last week, squash enthusiasts played on an undersized court hidden somewhere beyond the Salmo sheep on the main floor of the Memorial Centre. But thanks to a generous grant from Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), the support of local businesses, and the hard work of Trail Evening Squash program organizer, Mike Piva, and City of Trail’s Deputy Director of Parks and Rec, Robert Baker, the dream of a full size court became a reality earlier this month.
“There was the need for it, and something that aligned with the master plan,” said Baker. “And when we get the sports players and the sponsors working together with the city then it’s one of those really easy projects to put together, because you know people want it, you’ve got money, so it’s just get it done.”
The need for a regulation size squash facility has been around for a while, but it took a number of serendipitous moments before Piva and the squash club got the proverbial ball rolling.
“This is fantastic,” said Piva. “It’s been a long time coming, and I can’t believe it has happened … It was a whole community commitment and everything had to come together at the right time.”
After failing to secure funds to renovate a court in 2007, Piva decided to take another shot at it last year. With some prompting from Squash B.C. and the local squash community, Piva submitted another proposal to Trail Parks and Rec. The next day he received a call from Roger Austin from Austin Engineering asking Piva for the 2007 proposal to submit to Mayor Mike Martin and councillor Kevin Jolly in a meeting.
“They didn’t realize I submitted a new proposal the day before; it was purely coincidental,” said Piva. “Everything from that point on was just coincidences and bizarreness, and everything just happened at the right time.”
The grant application came through from Columbia Basin Trust, funding $20,000 for the court, then Piva sat down with Baker who worked with Redwood Engineering to oversee and coordinate the project. Despite a few bumps in the construction road, the project was completed on time – in terms of the CBT one-year deadline – and the court and its players are now up and running.
For squash players like Juris Harlamovs, who moved here to work at Teck almost 30 years ago, the squash court has been a long-time coming.
“When I got here I sort of hunted around this property and I found the racquetball courts and was looking for it (the squash court) but couldn’t find them,” Harlamovs told the attendees. “I eventually found that little cubby hole. I’ve been waiting almost 28 years for this day, so I hope we can do the next one in two or three years.”
The squash court, which replaced one of the racquetball courts on the upper level, is a significant upgrade to the facility, complete with an overhead viewing area as well as glass back-wall. While CBT was a major contributor, a variety of sponsors and volunteers helped make it possible, including Austin Engineering, Redwood Engineering, Speedpro Signs, Teck, and Fortis BC.
“I think it’s absolutely great,” said Mayor Mike Martin. “That this was brought to the attention of the city, and we were able to get a bunch of partners together to actually get this done. And it’s obvious from today that there are a lot of people out there wanting to play squash.
“One of the things we wrestle with as a council is, we have a fantastic facility here, and how do we get it better utilized? This may be one of those opportunities to expand the use of the facility.”
The reception also was treated to a series of exhibition games from budding ‘A’ players Steve and Kevin Limbert, and an ‘A’ level match between David Lin and Rebecca Vassilakakis, who was the BC Team manager at the Canada Winter Games held in Prince George last January, and one of the best squash players in the Kootenays and Okanagan regions.
The sport continues to grow in Greater Trail, which now boasts a squash league that plays throughout the fall and winter. Piva hopes to start a youth program to create even more interest and secure the future of squash in the Home of Champions.