Construction is set to begin on the Belli bubble, a $4.1-million, 56,000-square-foot soccer dome located near Lasalle Secondary School in New Sudbury.
Work is expected to be completed by November.
“We’re absolutely thrilled that we’re getting closer and closer, and to know that there are shovels in the ground now, it’s an exciting time for us,” Michel Lariviere, of the Fabio Belli Foundation, said.
The bubble will ultimately be smaller than the 100,000-square-foot facility that was originally planned. Also, it won’t feature a running track, but the bubble will cost about $2 million less.
And of the $4.1 million, about one quarter will be funded by the Rainbow District School Board, while the remainder is to be covered by community donations and financing agreements.
“Our big thing now is continuing to fundraise, working with the community to make our contribution possible, because we’re in partners with the school board, and in that partnership, we have to do our share of the work,” Lariviere said. “We continue to forge partnerships with anyone who wants to make this longstanding dream come true in its full potential. We’re still looking to the community to partner with us.”
The foundation is named for Fabio Belli, a Greater Sudbury councillor with a long history of involvement in the local soccer community. Belli passed away in April 2014. Prior to his death, he had repeatedly called for an indoor turf facility that would allow soccer players, as well as those involved in baseball, football or other sports, to train year-round. Club coaches and executives support the initiative as a means to promote skill development and overall health in the community.
“In terms of soccer, it’ll really help move the game forward and it’ll remove the obstacle and hurdle that has been holding us back to compete with other cities, Ottawa, Toronto, other bigger centres that have the facilities and can train year-round, because we’ve started to notice the gap getting bigger in terms of player development,” said Giuseppe Politi, a long-time soccer coach in the community.
“It’ll be a game-changer for soccer and, for sport in general. I think the public should know that it’s not just the Fabio Belli soccer bubble, it’s going to have many sports that can be played indoor, whether it’s frisbee or football or baseball. This is a good thing for our community in general, keeping people active, learning physical literacy. It’s just going to make our community a better place in terms of general sport.”
Politi said the addition of the Belli bubble can also lead to the city hosting more tournaments and events.
“Whether it’s high school, post-secondary, there are all sorts of benefits that can happen,” Politi said.
Admittedly biased towards the sport of soccer, Politi said this type of facility is much-needed considering the climate Sudbury has.
“It’s so unrealistic to think that we can compete against some of the best in the province when you only have an outdoor field for four, five months,” Politi said. “May, June, July, August, September, and by the time it’s October it’s already cold, so you’re inside for seven months of the year. We need something year-round.”
Organizers, however, has experienced some setbacks in getting the bubble built. It looked as though Belli’s dream would be realized in April 2018, when then-Liberal MPP Glenn Thibeault, along with members of the late councillor’s family, announced $4 million in provincial funding for the dome.
But when the Progressive Conservatives were elected last June, their commitment to a line-by-line review of Liberal spending put the previously-promised funding in question, and they cancelled the commitment a few months later, forcing Belli bubble organizers to seek other sources of financing.
The Belli bubble is one of two indoor sports facilities currently planned for the city. The Sudbury District Sports Club intends to open one at Ecole secondaire du Sacre Coeur later this year.
– with files from Ben Leeson