By Trevor Suffield
Jan. 29, 2009
Students from a West Broadway school are hoping that a community rally held last Friday afternoon will help them get an outdoor athletic field built for their school.
More than 100 Gordon Bell students braved -30 C wind chills for a midday rally at 730 Portage Ave., the site of a former car dealership on which Canada Post plans to build a mail sorting facility.
Green-clad students carrying posters were joined by community activists and politicians to raise awareness about their efforts to have an athletic field built near the school.
Morgan Hoogstraten, a Grade 12 student activist at Gordon Bell, was impressed with the turnout of the rally.
It just goes to show how much we want this space, said Hoogstraten, whose hair sported green highlights for the event.
I've been going here since Grade 7, and I can tell how much of an impact this will make on the school in terms of people from the community coming to the school.
Currently, Gordon Bell students only have access to a paved outdoor athletic courtyard located adjacent to the school.
Connor Ferg said he and his friends have the scars to prove how unforgiving the courtyard surface can be.
I've got scars, and I've broken bones on this. It's just not good, said Ferg, a Grade 10 student.
Gordon Bell has occupied its current site near the corner of Borrowman Place and Broadway for more than 50 years. Approximately 700 students currently attend the school.
Morris Glimcher, executive director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association, said while his organization hasn't been involved in discussions about the Canada Post site, it supports the schools efforts.
Gordon Bell doesn't have a football team right now, so maybe it would encourage football, or a home field for soccer, Glimcher said. I think every school should have a field.
Graduating student Leah Borchert, thinks an outdoor grass field would be a great thing for the school and community.
It's something that I really would have loved to have had in my years here, Borchert said.
In the West End there's lots of children and young people and adults with needs that a green space can fill.
Former Gordon Bell student Nancy Chippendale helped organize the demonstration because she feels athletics are important for students.
Many people have their best experiences in school, and I certainly did, playing on sports teams, Chippendale said. It's so positive and healthy.
Rob Altemeyer, MLA for Wolseley, attended the rally to show his support for students and staff at the school. Altemeyer said he understands it won't be easy to find a solution that works for both the school and Canada Post.
The challenge is we have to find a suitable space for Canada Post, Altemeyer said.
We need to find another 2.5-acre lot that Canada Post can build on, and let the students play here.
NDP MP Pat Martin attended the rally and said that something must be done to address the concerns of people in the community.
Martin, who has had discussion with senior officials at Canada Post and the Winnipeg School Division about the site, said that last weeks rally was just the beginning of efforts to galvanize the community.
These kids deserve the same opportunity to play team sports as kids in the suburbs or anywhere else in the city, Martin said. In fact, I would argue kids in the inner city need these opportunities even more.
Martin added that there is still time to resolve the issue. He said Canada Post officials have told him that they don't intend to start building until late summer or early fall.
This is great news, Martin said.