Three years of planning and fundraising came to a head Wednesday as the community gathered at Morris School to help turn the sod on a multi-sport court project. 

"It is so exciting. We started this project in 2021 and we are just about there," said Susan Chartier, chair of the Red River Wellness Committee, a local group formed specifically with the purpose of replacing the outdoor basketball/tennis court at the school.

The $283,195 project will see two new multi-sport courts constructed on the school grounds, each able to facilitate basketball, tennis and the ever-popular pickleball. 

Chartier, along with her husband, were the ones to originally propose the idea following a camping trip in 2020. She explained, many Provincial campgrounds have enhanced their tennis courts to also include a pickleball court. 

"So, we came home with that idea, thinking, 'Look at this dilapidated court. Maybe the school division would consider us upgrading it'. That's how it began, and (during) our first meeting this man (Morris School principal, Mike Watson) said, 'We're gonna go big or go home. We're going to build two courts', and I'm like, 'What?!' And here we are, we're doing it! It's so exciting. It's so awesome."

With 90 per cent of the cost in-hand, thanks to various grants and donations, construction is set to begin in July. 

The largest of those grants was a $75,000 Building Sustainable Communities grant from the provincial government. Additionally, the Morris and Area Foundation contributed $5,000, and another $1,000 came in from the Youth in Philanthropy group at Morris School. 

"The rest of it basically is donations by companies, businesses, individuals and fund raising," said Chartier. 

Morris multisport courtA rendering of the new multi-sport courts.

Mike Watson added, people really came together to make it all happen. 

"We also had some really persuasive individuals who worked really hard. Members of our committee who rarely take 'no' for an answer," he explained. "They did a really good job of reaching out to people. They've been in the community a really long time, they've served people that have donated, and it was time to sort of cash in on those deposits that they made as good people and called in a lot of favours to make this happen."

Proceeds from the 2023 Smile Cookie Week at the Morris Tim Hortons were also dedicated to the project. The result was over $24,000, which were presented at the sod turning event. 

Reps from Morris Tim Hortons presented Red River Wellness with the proceeds from the 2023 Smile Cookie Week.Reps from Morris Tim Hortons presented Red River Wellness with the proceeds from the 2023 Smile Cookie Week. 

According to Watson, not only will the new courts benefit the students at Morris School, but also the community-at-large outside of school hours. 

"We have a group who's really, REALLY hooked on pickleball, like a lot of people are becoming in the world. They've been using our gym, they used to use a parking lot behind the school, they're also using the multi-plex," he explained. "We have quite a group of kids who really love to play basketball and this will allow them to come play some games, some three-on-three, and really make good use of it. As well, we have members our community who rent our gym for basketball at night. This will allow them, during the nice times, to not have to rent the gym and just come and use the new facility."

"I think, in all fairness, schools should be the centre of our community," added Watson. "The more things we have for people to do here after school, I think is better and is really good for the health of our community overall."