Kent Lannan didn’t see the Marathon of Hope in person or have a close connection with cancer.
But he felt strongly about who should be recognized as Cornwall was preparing to open a jewel of a recreation facility a decade ago.
“We didn’t really have much on the Island, and still don’t, in honour of Terry Fox, so I thought that would be a fitting tribute to him and something the kids could look up to, when they used the facility, and remember him by and be inspired by,” Lannan said Thursday.
“Just like most Canadians, I admired what he did and the reason he did it.”
Lannan, who chaired the parks and recreation committee at the time, came up with the idea and reached out to the Terry Fox Foundation to see if it might be a possibility. He spoke with Terry’s brother, Fred, and then worked with recreation manager Kim Meunier to put a package together to show the family the facility and explain the town’s plans.
“It was almost a no-brainer for the family,” Fred said.
“For Terry and for our family, to know that there’s a sports facility named after Terry, he would be proud of that.”
Town council decided to name the facility the Terry Fox Sports Complex in June 2010 and the legend’s parents, Betty and Rolly Fox, were at the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the adjoining Eliot River Elementary School on Sept. 18 that year.
It is the same school Terry had visited during his Marathon of Hope in 1980 as he crossed the country raising money for cancer research and awareness about the disease.
“He certainly made a contribution to the country and I think our little province has done right by him by having a fabulous complex like we have named in his honour,” Lannan said.
“I think it is something that the Town of Cornwall should be really proud of.”
It wasn’t a unanimous decision at the time as some people thought the facility should be named after someone local.
“I don't think there’s ever been a more universally loved person in Canada – everybody loved him,” said Patrick MacFadyen, who was the mayor when the facility opened.
There are statues of Fox in St. John’s, N.L., Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Ont., and a few in British Columbia while 14 schools in Canada behold his name. There are 15 highways and roads named after Terry, including one in Charlottetown by the provincial government buildings near Victoria Park, and one mountain in B.C.
“Probably the biggest tribute that Terry ever received, and he was still alive to experience it, (was winning) the Lou Marsh Award, the award for the top athlete in Canada,” Fred said.
“What he was doing was an athletic endeavour – he was running a marathon every day.”
A look at the Terry Fox Sports Complex:
- What – A multi-faceted sports facility in Cornwall.
- Where – It is located on about 30 acres of land adjacent to Eliot River Elementary School.
- What’s there – The complex includes: a football turf field, a soccer turf field, a baseball field, a softball field, two tennis courts that double as two outdoor basketball courts, two beach volleyball courts, A toboggan hill, 2.2 kilometres of walking trails, which are groomed for cross-country skiing; Memorial Grove, Naturalization Gallery and Circle of Peace. A 317-square metre clubhouse, which includes four dressing rooms with showers, public washrooms, a canteen, an office and storage space, is located between the soccer and ball fields.
- Former mayor Patrick MacFadyen said: “It was a lot of effort by a lot of people and people came together (to make the project a reality). It’s amazing to have a vision of what that complex could be and then to see it be as successful as it is.”
- Naming – The town named the facility in honour of the Marathon of Hope runner from British Columbia in 2010.
- Former Cornwall councillor Kent Lannan said: “I think it’s a wonderful tribute to him.”
The facility began with soccer and football turf fields and walking paths in 2006. Phase 1 cost $1.7 million and was shared by the three levels of government.
The next phase would include the clubhouse, ball fields, basketball, tennis and beach volleyball courts plus a toboggan hill and walking trails. As the town was planning for the additions, the economy collapsed in 2008.
The federal government then said it would cover up to 50 per cent of project costs for shovel-ready projects as a way to stimulate the economy. It meant the town’s traditional 33 per cent cost for projects shared with the federal and provincial governments would be reduced to 17 per cent.
The town submitted the paperwork and it was approved. The final price tag for Phase 2 was about $3 million with the town’s share in the $500,000 neighbourhood.
“The facility, I think, has turned out even better than we hoped. The use of the facility has been tremendous,” MacFadyen said.
“It’s a real sense of pride for the community.”
The town had proposed the parking lot between the baseball field and the Trans-Canada Highway. It was contentious at the time because there was no access off the highway, meaning people had to go through a residential area and the school parking lot to get to the facility’s parking lot.
“We’re long-term thinkers here,” MacFadyen said, noting the thought at the time was that “someday the bypass is coming and someday we’ll be able to get access off the highway.”
That happened earlier this year with the opening of the new bypass around Cornwall.
In a day and age where a lot of municipalities have sold naming rights to facility, Cornwall hasn’t for the well-used facility.
“There’s some things that money can’t buy,” Lannan said, adding he hopes the town retains the name to maintain the integrity of the complex.