Fortius opening a slam dunk

It's 148,000 square feet of integrated health services and amenities to help develop all types of athletes - from the weekend warrior to the Olympic level - and it's finally taking appointments.

Fortius Sport and Health announced nine provincial sport organizations that will now call Burnaby home, inside its new sports hub on May 13.

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Fortius celebrated its soft opening on Monday by announcing SportMedBC, B.C. School Sports, B.C. Athletics, Curl B.C., Canoe-Kayak B.C., Karate B.C., B.C. Water Polo and Synchro B.C. will reside inside the sports hub on Kensington Avenue.

These groups all in one spot make it the largest sport cluster in the province, according to Fortius.

On Wednesday, LA Lakers basketball player Steve Nash took the first shot inside the new Fortius gymnasium. Nash, two-time NBA MVP and co-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, is also a member of the Fortius athlete advisory board.

"Our vision is to collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations who believe in the power of sport to transform lives," said Scott Cousens, founder and chair of Fortius, in a media release. "That's why it's only natural for us to have provincial sport organizations dedicated to the development of athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers share in the canvas that is the Fortius athlete development centre."

The eight organizations will join Roman Tulis European Soccer School of Excellence, which has already set up shop in Fortius. The nine organizations will join the Fortius athlete development centre both as resident and non-resident sport partners.

"A major pillar of what we're all about is athlete development," said Dr. Rick Celebrini, Fortius co-f o u n d e r and chief sport officer.

"Launching the Fortius athlete development centre with an inaugural series of resident sport partners that are responsible for the growth and development of their respective sports is what we'd like to think is a win-win proposition."

Fortius also officially announced Pharmasave, FitFirst Footwear and a SportMed medicine store that will all be operational by the summer.

"We were looking for like-minded individuals and organizations who shared in our belief in the power of sport to transform lives," said Lynda Cannell, Fortius chief operating officer. "Our first three inaugural resident retail partners are a perfect fit for us given their commitment to delivering excellent customer service and their knowledge and understanding of the sport and active living communities."

After years of being in the works, and almost coming to a stop after the 2008 financial crisis, the $61 million facility is taking appointments. There are already 60 practitioners, which will be part of the more than 200 staff members working when the facility is in full throttle.

The institute is operational for physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractors, physicians and the world's fastest growing hydrotherapy practice - it is described as being more robust than a "super clinic" by its ambassador.

"First of all, everything is available under one roof," said Tom Mayenknecht, Fortius Foundation ambassador standing outside the new facility. "This is more than just for athletes."

The public can also purchase monthly or temporary packages starting around $70, which not only includes gym access but also services from its health-care providers.

"High-performance athletes will come here because of the nature of the facility, but (it's for) people of all ages and levels of ability. That's the big message for us to get out, because people aren't used to having access to this kind of facility," said Mayenknecht, who is also the radio host of Sport Market on Team 1040.

The facility includes a three-story lodge on the top levels where organizations or teams can rent a room (or all of them) with two queen beds for less than $100 a night - plus each floor is named after an Olympic host city in Canada.

"So whether you're a six-year-old playing sports for the first time or a 60year-old grandma who just wants to stay fit for the odd walking with her friends, there's programming here to serve those people," he said.

The whole facility has corridors and areas named with an Olympic theme because a lot of the leadership on this project was inspired from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, according to Mayenknecht.

"Not just because of Olympic games as high performance host cities, but really the broad definition of Olympics as cultural, educational and having health legacies," he added. "That's why . you're going to see the Barcelona

boardroom, the Beijing studio and . the Oslo landing."

There is also a Pharmasave, with a health focus, a sport retail store, which will open soon, and opening some time in the summer are a café and the institute's restaurant, Game Changer Sports Café and Lounge, which will also cater to the lodge.

The site's grand opening is slated for next September.

"We'll have some community open houses for sports groups and then the official opening in September," he added.

There are parallel corridors lined with therapy rooms for physiotherapists, chiropractors and other physicians to tend to the their clients.

"Here, everybody is an integrated team, so one person's electronic medical record is shared with the different physicians in the team," he said. "Of course it's fully private and confidential and protected that way, but that is right away a defining feature of this place - is the fact that it's integrated."

There's also a space dedicated for a walk-in clinic to respond to the demand for sport injury treatment. For example, if a child is injured on a field nearby during a game, or if there is an urgent need for first aid, the child can come to Fortius for immediate attention.

"The whole building has been designed to create the best atmosphere and work ambiance possible and also to create the best ambiance for our clients, for people visiting for services or treatments or training," he said. "Hence, you're going to see a lot of skylights, a lot of windows, where people from other areas are going to be able to look in and see activity going on in other areas."

Burnaby is one of two municipalities in Canada to now have a Hydroworx hydrotherapy pool, which is essentially an underwater treadmill or swimming pool.

It can be used for rehabilitation, aqua fit classes, and pushing an athlete to the next level, according to Mayenknecht.

There's also a biomechanics and physiology lab, and an innovation and research centre.

The gymnasium is another highlight of the facility, which will be open to the public.

It's comprised of two vertical courts and one NBA-size court, horizontally.

It has high ceilings, and its colour themes are keeping in the Olympic spirit with gold, silver and bronze.

The institute is in talks with the Burnaby parks, recreation and cultural services department, as well.

"It's probably one of the nicest gym spaces in Western Canada," he said. "There's a real desire to collaborate with Burnaby parks and rec, be part of the Burnaby family, not seen as wanting to take anything away from anybody or compete with anybody, so to speak, but really provide additional resources for the Burnaby sports and rec community."

The Game Changer lounge opens to the Athens patio, which overlooks the Fortius pitch, which is next to a city pitch as well.

The pitch plays a key part of the institute's soccer programming, according to Mayenknecht.

For more information on Fortius, or to book appointments, visit fortiussport. com. The facility is located at 3713 Kensington Ave.

sseccia@burnabynow.com

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