Is the NORCECA Women's Continental Championship the last hurrah for the Team Canada Volleyball Centre in Winnipeg?
Volleyball Canada is now accepting bids to house the national men's and women's clubs, with the deadline for proposals coming this fall (the deadline was originally Oct. 15, but has been pushed back to a yet-to-be determined date). Chaired by Bruce Kent, a group of 12 people are putting the finishing touches on the Winnipeg bid to keep the program here for the next four years (2008-2012). Groups in Quebec, the Ottawa-Hull area and Southern Ontario are believed to organizing tenders but given the success and awareness of the programs here, Winnipeg will be the front-runner when the bidding eventually closes.
The women's team has been in Winnipeg since 1991. The men's side set up camp here in 1997.
Bids to be the host city for the national volleyball clubs are supposed to come up every four years -- keeping in sync with the Summer Olympic cycle. The last time it was scheduled to come up for bid was in '04 but that process was bypassed, as it was felt Winnipeg did a great job of providing for the national clubs and it would have been disruptive to the program if it moved again.
Plus, the concept of combining both the men's and women's programs into the TCVC was still in its infancy, and officials wanted more data on whether the marriage actually works. Randy Anderson, the GM of Manitoba's chapter of the Canadian Sport Centre, is a big proponent of the idea but admits it has had some growing pains.
"There are a lot of benefits to it, but at the same time it is a very daunting task," said Anderson, who has been a fixture on past local bids and is a part of the current one. "Not only are there the Senior A teams, but there are also the junior teams and youth teams coming through here periodically. Mixing those players in with the older players is great, because they get to see just how much work is needed to be at that high international level. The social component of it far outweighs the extra work."
The one thing hindering Winnipeg's bid is the lack of a full-blown training facility for not only volleyball, but for all amateur sports in this province. In the case of volleyball, the national program is based out of the University of Manitoba, sharing the Investors Group Athletic Centre and its resources with not only Bisons volleyball but also the basketball clubs.
"We need a venue where these people can do their work," Anderson said. "Being a national program athlete is not a part-time occupation anymore. Right now, our athletes are going to three or four places (in the city) to get what they need. That's unacceptable. That's not the way athletes are being trained around the world."
"We have a great volunteer base here, a great volleyball community, and I think people support us really well here," said Team Canada vet Tammy Mahon. "If the team does move, in the end it will be what's best for the team and athletes but I'd like to see Winnipeg put together a strong bid to keep us here. We've really developed in the last few years here and I hope it continues."
The winning bid will be revealed in the spring of '08.