Pelham Panthers: Panthers ready to find their home
For Pelham Panthers players, from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12, the new Pelham Community Centre promises a new home for practice and play.
When the new Pelham Community Centre opens next year, the Pelham Panthers Basketball Association’s long wait for a “home of their own” will finally come to a close.
The association has engaged the youth of Pelham and beyond in the sport of basketball since the early 1970s. Generations have learned the sport playing in the association’s house league and on travelling teams, while adults who once hit the court wearing Panthers’ uniforms now coach their children and grandchildren. But, throughout that long history, the association has never had a true home to call its own, it has relied on a selection of school gymnasiums to deliver participation in sport to the community’s youth.
That is all set to change according to association president Brian Bleich.
“It (the community centre) gives us a home,” said Bleich, who has played basketball all of his life. His experience with the sport took him to the national championships with the Brock Badgers, and to the world championships for Canada in 1987. When the call came out for prospective tenants of the new facility, and for individuals to participate in the design process, Bleich and the association were quick to act.
“We will book all the time we can get,” said Bleich, explaining the association has nearly doubled in size over the past four years, with upwards of 425 players from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12. That explosion of participation, he said, has made scheduling time for practices at local schools difficult, especially as school teams take priority and court repairs at some high schools limit availability.
“We get cancelled a lot,” he said, noting the new centre holds promise with two full-sized courts that can be broken down into four elementary-school-sized playing surfaces. Bleich said the association has already solidified use of the facility, with plans to run programs seven days a week on both courts during the winter months. The courts bring the prospect of tournament hosting to the association, and with it the cash flow to local businesses that comes with out-of-town visiting teams.
He was quick to underpin the importance of participation in sport for youth. Sport provides physical development, an active lifestyle, lifelong friendships, discipline, teamwork, and the strength to rise up in the face of failure.
“I always tell the kids that this is setting the base for their futures,” said Bleich. He explained those skills learned on the court carry through to every facet of those players’ lives as they grow. Beyond that sport, according to Bleich, brings the community together.
“A lot of our families become close,” he said. Bleich explained that with the new centre parents will be able to get active themselves while their children practice, by taking advantage of the centre’s other amenities, such as the indoor walking track.
“Pelham doesn’t have anything like this,” said Bleich, who pointed out in an active community like Fonthill the centre seems to be a perfect fit.
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