Throngs of Thompson children and youth have already enjoyed hundreds of hours on its courts but the Jumpstart multi-sport court on Thompson Drive is now officially, officially open following a ceremony on June 13.
Conceived in 2019, the $700,000, 13,000-square-foot court with a volleyball/badminton court, six fixed basketball hoops and a couple of movable and adjustable ones, took longer to come to fruition than originally planned, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was well worth the wait for its users, who have packed the court frequently this spring and even last fall when it was just completed.
“It was a dream at that time,“ said deputy mayor Brian Lundmark, thinking back to when council approved the proposal, which required a $100,000 commitment from the city, in December 2019. “I’m really happy it’s here now. Please take pride in your court, take care of it,”
With a slightly cushioned, high-contrast playing surface that is designed to be easier on joints, durable and very visible, the facility also features two sets of covered bleachers with space for wheelchairs, accessible picnic tables under shade structures between the courts, and double-wide player benches and roomy sidelines that are intended to accommodate an entire wheelchair basketball team if necessary. One side can also be converted into a full-size tennis court by installing a removable net, said Lindsay Joseph, manager of inclusive play for Canadian Tire Jumpstart charities.
Jon Ross Merasty-Moose, a Thompson teacher and coach, said the court is extremely popular.
“People are playing here all day, every day,” he said, noting that nearby schools can make use of it, as can child-care centres, summer day camps and community organizations. The only downside, said Merasty-Moose, is that Thompson only has three months of summer.
The park is one of only three in Canada so far, with the other ones in Ontario and British Columbia, though construction of a fourth in Brandon is beginning this summer.
Joseph, who arrived in Thompson the day before the ceremony, said she drove by the park around 9 p.m. and saw that it was still far from empty, with about 50 children and youth inside its fences.
“Kids are coming of their own volition to enjoy the space and to get active and feel a part of a group in a really positive and healthy way, which is awesome,” she said.
One of those who uses the courts frequently is Kaden Clemons, a Grade 6 student at Deerwood School who says he comes to play basketball or volleyball every day around 5 p.m. and that there’s usually 50 to 60 other people there are that time.
“It’s a nice area to play,” said Clemons, “Lots of people can come here and enjoy it.”
The court even has four LED lights that the city can turn on with a timer, though they may not be as useful in Thompson as in the other two existing parks, which are much further south.
“As I understand it, and from my one night here, the lights stay on naturally pretty late, so the city’s quite lucky in that way,” Joseph said.