Stratford Basketball ready for next step forward

  • Sports   Friday, May 13, 2022   Matthew Harris

What was once just a dream is set to become a reality for Stratford Basketball.

A project that was proposed a year ago will begin construction this month that will see an NBA-sized outdoor court built, adding to the offerings at the Stratford Education and Recreation Centre. Located between the tennis courts and the parking lot just off Matilda Street, the court is expected to be ready by June.

Lori Belanger and Brian Cooper, along with Michael Bartlett (President of Canada Basketball), have been overseeing the project and are both excited to see the time come when basketball fans in the city will have a new facility to call their own. A project that Belanger promised she would help realize when she was on the Revolution’s board is now that much closer to reality.

“This has been in the plans for a year now, and there are lots of other sports facilities in Stratford but this will be the only full-sized outdoor basketball court in the city,” she said. “My husband Brian and I both worked for the Toronto Raptors at one time and we saw the grassroots growth of basketball in this country. We’re really excited to see this project finally become reality.”

Cooper, the chairman of the Board of Directors for Canada Basketball, explained that the space where the court will go – approximately 5,000 square feet – was provided by the City at no charge. Once built, the court will have six baskets (two at each end for a full-court set-up and four on the sides to allow for half-court games) along with an eco-friendly court surface and lighting.

“This is the last piece of the puzzle for this area,” Cooper said. “The City is going to cover insuring the court and pay for the power to the lights. We hope we’ll be able to break ground for the court this month, and once it begins it won’t take that long to finish.” 

Belanger said they have targeted June 25 for the opening of the court and said they have some guests from the Raptors planning on joining them for the opening.

“Nav Bhatia, the Raptors ‘super fan’, made a significant donation to this project and he’ll be joining us as well,” she said. “We’ve raised $185,000 for the court, which leaves us about $5,000 short of our goal. But I think this has been a reflection on how well this community comes together for a common goal. This court will be a great place for kids to come and play, and it will be lit up and safe for them.”

In addition to the land and services provided by the City, Cooper added that through grant funding and private donations in fund and in-kind has helped them purchase backboards, nets and poles. He also credited Culliton Brothers for providing the electrical services and labour.

“When you look around Stratford, you’ll find there are 14 fields for soccer, football and rugby, along with 11 baseball diamonds and 10 pickleball courts,” he said. “When you compare it to other sport access in Stratford, it’s apparent we needed more courts.”