First ever Sports on Central event brings crowds downtown

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Saskatchewan Roughrider Derrick Moncrief signed autographs during Sports on Central on Saturday.

Central Avenue was the place to be on Saturday for the first ever Sports on Central event.

The event brought together the community and featured several temporary arenas built for basketball, hockey, soccer and football with funds going towards supporting KidSport.

Organizing committee member Meghan Mayer was astounded by the response to the inaugural event.

“I am overwhelmed,” Mayer said. “I expected a good turnout but I didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect the energy and the smiles on the kids’ faces and just the overwhelming feeling. It’s just amazing. I didn’t expect this at all.

“It’s been a steady stream of people,” she added. “I came at 12. I didn’t think people would come until around 2 and then I came and said oh okay we have got people.”

The event will provide a way for families to enjoy themselves and raise funds to help more kids participate in sports in Prince Albert.

“It’s been so interesting to,” Mayer said. “Little kids come talk to you and parents being so thankful and so grateful. There is a birthday party being held here, so somebody planned a birthday party at Sports on Central.”

A fencing demonstration was another feature of Sports on Central on Saturday.

Mayer said that they have already begun planning for next year to make the event bigger and better. The event began as an idea in November, 2022 and then really hit the ground running in January.

“This community is the best community because we have so many amazing businesses, (and) sponsors that were all in … and then on top of that, not only did they sponsor us a lot of them came and volunteered.”

The familiar yellow volunteer shirts were all around the event.

“It’s like a sea of yellow. That’s the community,” Mayer said.

There were booths set up for Sports on Central featuring the Prince Albert Youth Soccer Association, Prince Albert Minor Football, and the Prince Albert Community Basketball Association and many more.

The street hockey rink at Plaza 88 was a busy place during Sports on Central on Saturday.

“(There is) every kind of sport,” Mayer said. “We have got fencing. We have got boxing. We just started calling different organizations and clubs and asking if they want to be a part of this. Some people don’t even know about some of the clubs and what they do, so hopefully next year we can get more clubs involved so people can get their name out about what is out there for kids to join.”

Sports on Central featured three basketball courts located on Central Avenue, a street hockey rink in the Plaza 88 parking lot, and a soccer pitch and football field located down Ninth Street East.

Nearly every piece of sports equipment used during the Sports on Central event was given away or raffled off. Available equipment included basketballs, footballs and pucks all the way to hockey nets, basketball hoops and goalie equipment.

“It really mattered to us because you are coming out of COVID, prices are higher, parents are stretching their dollar as far as they can and some kids can’t get into sports,” Mayer said.

“We had tons of people donate jerseys, donate skates, (and) donate hockey equipment. There was one kid that came and told our donation department that he has wanted to join hockey but couldn’t afford it and he was able to pick up the stuff that he needed for hockey.

“This church is amazing too, I mean the amount of support and planning that it has taken and then we have an amazing board and the board consisted of different people in the community. The Police department was a part of it, different people from our church, PADBID was a part of it, so it has just been amazing to work with the people in the community.”

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ linebacker Derrick Moncrief was on hand to speak about his faith and sign autographs during the afternoon. Moncrief also dropped the puck for the Prince Albert Police Service and Prince Albert Fire Department street hockey game.

Moncrief’s speech was in a question-and-answer format.

“First thing we are going to go through some questions about my life, my upbringing, faith and how sports shaped me into the man I am today. I’m just going to give you some real life examples of what I went through, my journey has been, it’s been a legendary journey as I say. Ups and downs, peeks and valleys whatever it is right, God kept his hand on my life so I am going to go into detail later on tonight,” Moncrief said.

“Because God is the reason I am here, not by my might, by my power, my knowledge or anything like that. He is the only reason that I am in Saskatchewan from Pratteville, Alabama, a small town,” Moncrief said.

Pratteville is located 15 minutes north of Montgomery, Alabama.

“Me from being from there on this journey, God has really been just my foundation and I’m just trying to tell my story to everybody else that God is real and he’s our supplier,” he said.

Moncrief said enjoyed his time in Prince Albert.

“It’s a wonderful event, Embassy Church, Pastor Meghan, this whole city it’s just wonderful. Sports brings people together,” he said.

“It’s been great anytime you can give back it’s better than writing a cheque to me, spending time with people just trying to be a beacon of light to the community,” Moncrief said.

Also signing autographs were Prince Albert Raiders players Grady Martin, Eric Johnston and Max Hildebrandt.

Mayer thanked everyone who made the event happen. Mayer thanked the members of the Prince Albert Police Service and Prince Albert Fire Department who took part in the street hockey game. PAPS won the game 15-10.