Fri Sep 21 2018

The Legacy of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Written by Jim Germain

The lights of Howe Bowl were said to be dim in its early days, but to a 10 yr old, they shone like stars in the evening sky. I was fortunate to grow up relatively close to Howe Bowl – now the Gordie Howe Bowl Sports Complex. The roar of the crowd during football games and the lights of Howe Bowl drew my friends and I to it like moths to back yard lights.

As we ran down to the excite-ment, we saw the buses carry-ing football teams quietly to the games and saw them carrying some of the same teams back yelling in victory afterwards. I was determined to be part of that ritual, and couldn’t hide my excitement when I finally got there with the Mount Royal Mustangs and several years later with the Hilltops. Who can ever forget the mist rising from the grass while playing night games at Howe Bowl, and high school teams lining up on the hills waiting for their games and running down like armies at game time.

Gordie Howe Bowl was always a part of my families activities. All my 4 brothers played there, and my oldest brother played in the first game at Howe Bowl in 1960 for Tech Collegiate and my youngest son played right to the end of the grass era. I even met the “great man” there himself when I was a youth, and got his autograph.

Baseball was also part of the Howe Bowl experience. Baseball and softball facilities are going to be a big part of the new Gordie Howe Sports Complex, but I also remem-ber when baseball was “the sport of summer” back when the Commodores played at Cairns Field at Howe Bowl.

We cheered the early Commodores (named after a restaurant here) at Cairns Field and chased foul balls for 35¢, but some balls we kept, and learned the game in our backyards. Years later, we watched many professional ball players, some trying to rebuild their career playing at Cairns Field at Howe Bowl. All my children learned to skate at Clarence Downey at Howe Bowl – and so did some of their friends that we towed along. We kept coming back, friends too and we have all been wait-ing for the new facility. Its hard to beat skating outdoors on a crisp clear day.

In the summer we watched fastball games and baseball at Bob Van Impe Field and bought more tickets for the World Championships that were played there – again at Howe Bowl. And anybody who has played minor hockey, played at the Kinsmen Arena, also part of the Howe Sports Complex. Of course where else? My friends and I would wait all winter for our one game indoors back then at the Kinsmen, and get there hours earlier just to enjoy it.

Now there is track and field, Cross country skiing, box lacrosse and even ultimate disc added to be part of the new facilities. There is even a new venue and clubhouse in the heart of the Complex with a seating capacity of 300 guests with fantastic views of the foot-ball field and a covered open air deck that seats an additional 125 guests for any gatherings.

Friends of the Bowl have done an amazing thing, even set-ting an example for the rest of sporting Canada. As one visiting executive from a rival city said to me during one of the Hilltops’ games, “How in the world are we going to compete with this?

”Thanks to the Friends of the Bowl for keeping the legacy alive and then some. The stars shine brightly for our youth.