THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay soccer community may have an indoor facility to call home much sooner than they think.
A group of investors, led by developer Robert Zanette, has started clearing land off Golf Links Road and plan to build an indoor turf facility under a bubble.
The project, once completed, would consist of two 90- by 150-foot soccer fields, though the facility could host any number of indoor sports.
The project will also include a companion hotel.
Carmen Felice, general manager of the yet-to-be-built Goal Sports Centre II, said Thunder Bay is in desperate need of an indoor sports facility, which is why they’re fast-tracking the project, ambitiously hoping to open in as few as three months.
“We’re going to open it up to not just the soccer groups, but to as many users as we can accommodate. Obviously the priority will go toward the youth and any of the youth programs,” Felice said on Monday, taking stock of the progress that’s been made already on the property, located next to the Iron Range Bus yard.
“That’s the future of any of the sports.”
The structure, once built, would help fill a major gap in the city’s sports infrastructure. It would be a replacement for the former Sports Dome, which collapsed in November 2016 at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition grounds, and the sports bubble at Confederation College, which is scheduled for demolition in the near future.
Felice said the new bubble will likely be able to work in conjunction with a proposed city-built $30-million indoor turf facility that is in the initial stages of the approval process at city hall.
“We are willing to work with all the user groups and the City of Thunder Bay for the best of all the sports,” he said, adding without an indoor turf facility, he's concerned many youth sports will decline in membership for lack of a place to play.
The bubble would be open to outside groups, including trade shows, auto shows, senior walkers, elementary school day programs as well as international student actitivies and events.
A spokesman for Soccer Northwest said they support the facility, while still planning to push the city to build a permanent indoor structure. Felice stressed the bubble is also a permanent facility.
City officials say they have yet to receive a building permit for the property.