Despite having their most successful year to date, this may be the last semester that the Bison cheerleaders ever compete.
As soon as official confirmation for funding is received, the Frank Kennedy Centre is expecting to proceed with renovation plans, which include turning the gymnastics room into a multi-purpose gymnasium.
Jodi Williams, the facilities manager said, “It’s definitely something that we have plans to do. We applied for funding from the federal government as part of the rink funding proposal they had put out last summer.”
If they do receive the funding, the contract states that construction must be completed by March 31. Renovations would be set to start the beginning of January.
Williams said, “We are just waiting to hear whether we’ve been approved for that funding.”
The gymnastics room is used not only by the Bison Cheerleading team but is also rented out to Storm Cheer, a cheerleading program for ages 6-17, which acts as a feeder program for the Bison Cheerleading team.
Williams said they would not be able to provide space for them if they proceed with the conversion.
“They have not received an official letter, but their contract for this year will not be signed by the university until we get our word about whether we’re proceeding with it or not.”
He said that without the official documentation they cannot tell people that they are proceeding with the plans.
With nationals approaching next month, the Bison Cheerleading team is going into their biggest competition to date, having just moved up to a higher category.
Nadia El-Gabalawy, the coach for the Bison cheerleaders said, “This is a big problem. [ . . . ] We don’t really have any options. We’ve approached the athletic community a few times.” Since it is mid-season she said most facilities don’t have any space left and it is hard for them to reschedule their routines at this point.
Chantelle Harvey, the captain of the team, also agrees. “We have a national competition in Halifax in March and we have nowhere to train now. [ . . . ] The chances of us finding a facility are really low.”
El-Gabalawy said she will try to do everything she can to find a space for the team so that they can at least continue this season.
If the team is able to find a training location to finish off the season, their best option may only be a school gym, which is not the safest environment to train in, long-term.
The Bison Cheerleading team, in the past, has received medals from the mayor, won two international championships, and had the largest roster and highest percentage of males in Bison history.
Harvey said, “We have so many people that are interested [ . . . ] and we had the potential to do really well this year.”
Currently the university has no alternative options for the team. El-Gabalawy said, “I don’t think there’s going to be a Bison team next year, [ . . . ] I think for us there’s been such a tough blow that we’re just going to try to finish the season.”
Williams said, “Internally, with our volleyball programs, [ . . . ] they’re trying to implement junior systems, but they’ve been restricted because of the amount of gym space available. [ . . . ] It didn’t fit into our academic scheme anymore.”
If the facility receives approval, it appears that it could be the end of competitions for the U of M Bison cheerleaders.
El-Gabalawy said, “The athletic department, [has] other priorities right now, and unfortunately I don’t think we’re one of them.”