The floor of the Val Matteotti Gymnasium at Lethbridge College is sporting a brand-new look these days.
After years of the status quo, the most recent sanding and refinishing project has revealed a bold, new court. At centre, is a black Kodiaks logo emblazoned over powder-blue stain – a prominent colour of the college’s athletics teams.
The new-look floor is a big change for the 32-year-old building, and a welcome improvement for Todd Caughlin, manager of Athletics and Recreation Services. “Each one of our facilities should be a recruiting tool and the gym should be the highlight,” he says, “and not just a highlight for student athletes and coaches but for anyone who visits campus. It should be a welcoming space for all.”
The colour palette isn’t the only noticeable update in the gym.
Written in white on a black background along the far sideline is “Welcome to Ohkotoki’aahkkoiyiiniimaan” – the college’s Blackfoot name meaning Stone Pipe. On the opposite sideline is a small, brown bear – an animal held in high regard within Blackfoot culture. It and other Indigenous pieces were designed specifically for the space by southern Alberta Blackfoot artist, Monte Eagle Plume.
Lethbridge College is the first institution in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) to incorporate Indigenous culture in its gymnasium floor design.
"It’s another example of Lethbridge College’s commitment to recognizing and honouring the fact that we are on the traditional lands of the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot) people,” says Marni Hope, Indigenous student support and events coordinator. “You are reminded you are on Blackfoot territory the minute you step onto the floor. Blackfoot people are known for being fierce, tenacious and resilient, and I look forward to seeing those qualities in our student-athletes as they play on the floor."
The refinished hardwood compliments the gymnasium walls, which got a fresh coat of blue paint a few summers back. Upgrades have also been made to the gym’s lighting, scoreboards, sound and video equipment and Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference honour wall in recent years. New bleachers are in the works for next summer.
“These improvements reflect the culture of our institution as whole, not just athletics,” says Caughlin. “We can all take pride in this facility. We’re all on the same team; we are all Kodiaks.”
Young athletes attending the college’s Summer Sports Camps will be among the first to use the new-look gym with basketball and volleyball camps beginning next week.
A more formal unveiling of the gym’s Indigenization and other improvements will be held in September.