Burnaby's premier sports centre is on track to open this spring, with tenants able to move in by about March 2013.
The Multisport Centre of Excellence is undergoing a name change before opening day, as well. The centre will open as the Fortius Athlete Development Centre, the Burnaby NOW has learned.
The name is one of a series of announcements expected to be made at a press conference this morning (after NOW press deadlines) at the facility's site next to the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.
The Fortius Athlete Development Centre and Fortius Institute will make up Fortius Sport and Health, according to sources close to the project.
Dr. Rick Celebrini, head of sports medicine and science for the Vancouver Whitecaps, is a co-founder and partner for the project, and is expected to be named director of sports medicine and science for the new centre this morning.
Celebrini did not confirm or deny the centre's new name, but said in a phone interview with the NOW that he was glad to be involved in the project.
"The potential for the centre is so exciting and for everyone I talk to in the sports medicine/sports science fields, this is really the utopia, the medical Disneyland if you will, for a lot of practitioners," Celebrini said. "It's almost an unofficial legacy from the Games, and a lot of the same people involved in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic medical team are involved in this project. It's really an opportunity to continue that legacy."
As far as his role in the project, Celebrini confirmed he would be working out of the Burnaby centre.
"I'll basically be a ringleader, so to speak, to coordinate all these relevant experts in their field and make sure we're collaborating and integrating all the things we believe in, in terms of making sure this is, one, a rewarding place to work, but also that we are developing something pretty special in terms of sports medicine, sports science and athlete development," he said.
His dual roles with the Whitecaps and the centre will "just add to the possibilities," Celebrini said.
"I'll be busy," he said, laughing. "Fortunately, there are some real synergies between the two roles."
A major part of his role with the Whitecaps is to develop young soccer players, he explained.
"Combined with the vision of the centre, which is really as a youth athlete development centre, there are potential synergies to explore there," he said.
While the centre in Burnaby is focusing on youth development, a development centre for the Whitecaps is slated to be built at the University of British Columbia. The City of Burnaby had hoped the club would choose to base their development centre here.
But the club decided the UBC site better served their purposes, Celebrini said.
"At the end of the day, the club had certain needs that they were looking for, and UBC provided the best opportunity in a number of different areas," he said, but added the two facilities make for region-wide sports development. "It's almost like a covering of the Lower Mainland, with the 'Caps out at UBC and (the centre) out here in Burnaby."
Regarding the Burnaby centre's role in the Lower Mainland, Celebrini said it could be a catalyst to change how athletes are developed and sports medicine is delivered.
Celebrini became involved in the project nearly a decade ago, after Scott Cousens, chair of the Multisport Centre of Excellence Foundation, came up with the concept, albeit on a smaller scale.
"He initially approached Lynda Cannell from SportMed B.C., who then approached Alex McKechnie and Brian Day and myself," Celebrini said. "And so we were sort of the first ones in on this vision of Scott's."
Last fall, Cousens' family donated $23 million to get the centre built after construction stalled in 2008.
"To people who are newly introduced to the project, it may look like an overnight success. But like so many overnight successes, we've been at this for a decade," Cousens said in a phone interview with the
"It's very gratifying to see it all come together. We have a purpose-built worldclass facility that's going to complement the sports park in Burnaby so well."
The centre will have one of the world's best practitioner teams, he added.
As for his family's contribution, he feels it as a very worthwhile investment, he said.
"Our donation, our contribution to the project is really to see sport impact and change the lives of the next generation of kids, starting very locally and reaching out as far as our reach will allow us, and impact as many lives as we can," Cousens said. "And that's the essence of the drive behind our investment."
After working so hard to get the centre built, Cousens said he is glad to see that part of the project coming to completion.
"We can see the finish line just out in front of us," he said.