Rick Brownlee, sports heritage manager at Sport Manitoba, hopes the newly reopened Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame on Pacific Avenue will continue to drive revitalization of the East Exchange. – Dylan Hewlett
Officials with Manitoba’s Sports Hall of Fame (HOF) are hoping its recent grand reopening will help with efforts to reinvigorate the East Exchange.
After a lengthy delay since closing in 2009, the Hall of Fame reopened Saturday, Oct. 27 in the Sport For Life Centre at 145 Pacific Ave.
“We’re going to draw traffic - families, sports fans, people that otherwise might not have come down here,” said Rick Brownlee, sports heritage manager at Sport Manitoba, which operates the gallery. “Bringing people in to use parking meters, spend some money, is only going to benefit the Exchange.”
Founded in 1980, the HOF has been the repository for Manitoba’s sport history, boasting a collection of more than 18,000 artifacts, including memorabilia from the Blue Bombers’ 1935 Grey Cup Championship.
However, the last decade has been a rocky one for the HOF.
In 1998, the HOF moved to The Bay downtown from the Johnston Terminal at The Forks, Brownlee said.
“We were on the verge of bankruptcy,” he said. “The Bay was nice enough to take us in.”
The fifth floor of a large department store, however, was never a permanent location for the HOF.
Plans to move were initiated in 2008 when the HOF became amalgamated as a program of Sport Manitoba.
Brownlee was excited when Sport Manitoba chose the Exchange District location for its new 64,000-sq. ft. Sport for Life Centre, which opened in April 2010 and includes a coaching resource centre, a sport medicine clinic and a number of meeting spaces.
“It’s always been our goal to be at a main floor location,” said Brownlee. “Lucky for us, it turned out to be in Winnipeg’s great museum district.”
The HOF is just one facet of Sport Manitoba’s expansion plans, Brownlee added.
The organization has also drawn up plans to add an 80,000 square foot field house that will include a multi-purpose track, an aerobic training centre and more fitness training and workshop space.
Billed as a first of its kind in Canada, the centre is important in providing training spaces, tools, sport facilities, therapeutic spaces and research capabilities under one roof.
It’s expected to draw 400,000 people to the facility every year.
“It will offer the complete package for the athlete,” said Brownlee.
He added that Sport Manitoba also intends to dedicate one third of its field house time to community-oriented programs.