Sports clubs in St. Stephen hope to utilize space at the former Border Area Community Arena

Krisi Marples/Courier Sports clubs in the area are holding out hope to make use of available space at the former Bordea Area Community Arena

St. Stephen – As the Border Area Community Arena continues to await its future – while currently being used for storage – sports clubs in the area are holding out hope to have the opportunity to use the space.

Don Brown, a coach with the St. Croix Sportsman Club, said the space at the former arena
would be ideal for the club, and is something that could be used in conjunction with other clubs in the area.

Last fall, members of the St. Stephen Tennis Club made a presentation to council, citing the benefits of the use of a portion of the former arena for indoor courts. The St. Stephen
Horseshoe Pitchers Club has also expressed interest in the space.

The St. Croix Sportsman Club currently operates out of the Boys and Girls Club of Charlotte County (BGCCC). The club once had access to a room adjacent to the range, which was used as a sitting area for parents, as well as a space for the athletes to prepare for training.

The club now just has access to the range, which not only makes it difficult for the athletes to prepare for training, but makes it difficult to host any competitions.

The club, once slated to host the North Atlantic Airgun Challenge at the end of this month, was forced to call it off, in large part due to the lack of space.

“We were supposed to have a shoot there at the end of this month, but it would be so crowded that we’ve decided to postpone.”

Brown said the St. Croix Sportsman’s Club, which has operated out of BGCCC for four years now, has been looking to relocate since the fall, but said one of the biggest issues with finding a new location is finding a place to fit into the budget.

“It’s hard to find a place that doesn’t want mega bucks, or $80,000 for a building, and that’s just not in our budget. We’ve moved four times already. It’s difficult to say the least, and it makes it hard to do this kind of sport, when there’s no support system, it seems like we’re begging all the time to do something.”

If the club had the opportunity to use a portion of the space at the former Border Area Community Arena, Brown explained it would provide enough space to host competitions, but also give the club a central location to help grow the membership.

The club currently has around 12 active youth members, but has had as many as 40 in the past.

“We’d like to have 10 stations, which is what the Canadian Shooting Federation would like to see us have… That would be ideal, but even if we couldn’t make the requirements, even if we had eight stations, we could do everything else – local inter-provincials, even attract people from Quebec to come.”

Brown explained the St. Croix Sportsman Club has had a great deal of success in the past, with names like Emily Dean, who has a wide repertoire of national, and international titles under her belt, and still trains at the club, and Scott Ring, who won gold in the 2015 Canada Games.

Mae McCullough, an 11-year-old shooter from Lake Utopia, has also had her share of achievement in her short time in the sport, winning two international titles earlier this year – gold in both the sub-junior category of the N.R.A. Sectional Air Gun competition, and N.R.A.’s Maine State Championships.

The St. Croix Sportsman Club is the only club in New Brunswick with electronic targets, which Brown noted cost $4,000 a piece.

Because of the great deal of time required to set up the pulley systems on each target, Brown said the club would require a permanent space – the targets are not something that can be torn down, and put back up, before each shoot.

“We have to get a place where we can have our own space; it’s not like picking up a bunch of mats, or putting away balls.”

Brown said he has approached town officials, but has not yet heard anything back about the potential of utilizing the space.

“We have to try and find something that’s a little more usable, and something that doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg.”

Mayor Allan MacEachern said no decision has been made as of yet, on the fate of the 43-year-old arena, and said the building is currently being used for storage of town materials and equipment.

MacEachern said if the space was to be used for sports clubs, multiple clubs would have to use the facility, for it to sustain itself.

“I think it would have to be multiple clubs to be able to sustain itself; one club wouldn’t be able to sustain itself in that building. I think that would have to be an interchangeable set up, a seasonal thing.”

MacEachern said a great deal of discussion has take place about the building, but said council wants to explore every option.

“It’s quite a task. It has the potential for different types of usages, which we’re trying to do,” MacEachern said, adding there is no timeline for when a decision will be made.

“All I know is that we got our plan for the office and it scared the heck out of us,” MacEachern said, referring to the initial plans to relocate town hall offices to the building.

In November of 2015, council commissioned an engineering firm to conduct a feasibility assessment, at a cost of $11,310 in regards to relocating the offices at town hall to the arena.

“We need to have some more discussions, and find out more about what the clubs would need, and what it would take to re-purpose the building.”

The estimate for the cost to re-purpose the building to relocate town offices has not been revealed.

Jason Rideout, president of the St. Stephen Horseshoe Pitchers Club, like the St. Croix Sportsman Club, said the space would be ideal for a year-round facility for an indoor horseshoes club.

Rideout explained he travelled to Lewiston, Maine, where they have an indoor facility, to get an idea about how it operates, before bringing the idea to Derek O’Brien, the chief administrative officer for the town of St. Stephen.

“We feel the indoor pits would not only build the club, but bring events in the winter, because when we went to Lewiston for a weekend tournament, there were people driving an average three hour drive, so we have confirmation people would travel from around the province.”

Like Brown, Rideout said the set up would have to be somewhat permanent. The club now pitches at Earle Fraser’s Farm in Old Ridge, and the season opens as soon as the weather permits.

“We could move [the pits], but we’re not going to want to do it every time we play. We really need a section that’s probably 65 feet by 70 feet.

“If we could get in there, we could put them away for summer because we play outside, and another group could use that space, and set up again in the late fall.”

Rideout said he felt the use of an indoor facility would positively affect the club’s growth, particularly the under 40 age bracket, noting many of those who play softball in the summer would be interested in pitching horseshoes during the winter.

Rideout added the use of an indoor club could help the club increase its numbers with the youth age group.

“If we had an indoor facility, we could work on a youth, or after school program, and maybe even build a youth league,” Rideout said, adding the central location would facilitate that growth.

With a great deal of active senior pitchers in the club, Rideout mentioned the use of an indoor facility would help the senior pitchers stay active year round.

“There’s a benefit to all ages and it would help our group year round. It’s also got a tourism aspect; we could be bringing folks in for weekends, and the clubs identified it would be a huge boost of our membership,” Rideout said.

“With eight sets of pits, it would allow us a major tournament with 50-60 people no problem.”

Rideout said the club has been in search of an indoor location for the last five years, but explained it’s difficult to find a building to accommodate the club.

“It’s hard to find a building with a 14 foot ceiling that’s 50 foot across – that type of building isn’t easily attainable. It’s a unique space and when this came up, we knew this could be huge for our club, and allow us to grow and host tournaments.”

Krisi Marples/Courier
Sports clubs in the area are holding out hope to make use of available space at the former Bordea Area Community Arena