Varsity sports coming to Laurier Brantford

BRANTFORD, Ont. — No, the rugby teams (or any teams for that matter) are not moving from Waterloo to Brantford as has been rumoured several times over the past two years.

It was announced Thursday morning that Laurier’s Brantford campus will be getting its own varsity athletic program, that will compete in the Ontario Colleges Athletics Association (OCAA). The school will be getting men’s and women’s soccer teams starting in the 2014-15 season, followed by men’s and women’s basketball in 2015-16.

“This is huge,” said an excited Greg Stewart, manager of athletics and recreation for Laurier Brantford. “It’s a massive recruitment tool for us and it just adds so much when it comes to the spectator level and for student-athletes.”

These will be the first varsity teams exclusive to Laurier Brantford, though they have had experience hosting Golden Hawks events in the past. Last year, the men’s baseball team played a weekend series in Brantford while the men’s hockey team played there as part of the first homecoming on the Laurier Brantford campus. That homecoming hockey tradition continued this past season when the women’s hockey team played the Guelph Gryphons at the Brantford Civic Centre.

However, WLU director of athletics and recreation Peter Baxter acknowledged the importance of Laurier Brantford having teams they can call their own.

“It’s great for this campus, it really gives the students here a point of pride,” said Baxter. “It’s one thing having one game now and then, it’s another thing to have the real ability for students and student-athletes to have access to athletics. Brantford students can play on any of our teams but driving 50 minutes there and back to practice everyday just doesn’t make sense academically.”

Currently there are 12 athletes on nine of Laurier’s varsity teams that go to school at the Brantford campus.

Baxter also mentioned that the new teams will be funded solely by Laurier Brantford.

Playing in the OCAA means that the Hawks will be competing against both colleges and universities. Laurier Brantford will be the fifth university to compete in the league, joining Algoma, Nipissing, Redeemer and Trent.

According to Stewart, joining the OCAA made a lot more sense for the school than attempting to join a league like Ontario University Athletics, which is home to Ontario’s larger universities.

“We know we’re always going to be the smaller version of Laurier Waterloo,” he said. “So we always targeted the OCAA approach…. We had to have a five-year plan of what was realistic and what wasn’t and this approach really worked for us.”

When it comes to facilities, the school has partnered with local soccer clubs, the Brantford Galaxy and Brantford City Soccer to allow for the new Laurier soccer teams to play on local fields. When the basketball program begins in 2015, it will be playing in a brand new athletic complex, which the school plans on building in partnership with the local YMCA.

“Starting a basketball program now without a facility wouldn’t any sense at all,” said Stewart. “But we’re hopeful that our facility will be ready by 2013, 2014 at the latest and that facility will likely be in the neighbourhood of 120-130,000 square feet.”

According to Stewart, the athletic complex will feature a double or triple gymnasium, a pool and a running track, and be located just a few blocks from campus.

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