Right-sized B.C. cities with amazing athletic amenities are showcasing their team spirit and sports-loving culture.
Go ahead and run the Boston Marathon or pay for front-row Super Bowl tickets, but at some point, even hardcare sports aficionados realize there’s more to sports than the global highlights. Happily, British Columbia’s smaller centres offer virtually unlimited options in terms of athletic amenities for sports-loving residents.
Whether you’re eager to pursue an active lifestyle or enjoy thrilling spectator sports, there are beautiful homes with easy access to golf, tennis, skiing, mountain biking and much more available all over B.C. These scenic, right-sized cities features state-of-the-art facilities, exciting sports leagues and well-attended tournaments, which makes them a magnet for savvy entrepreneurs, too.
Victoria made headlines when it hosted the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship last Christmas, but Langford, less than 20 minutes west, is also making big waves as a sports hub.
This booming Vancouver Island city of 40,000, noted for its business-first attitude and ample shopping, recently renovated Westhills Stadium. The stadium is home to both Rugby Canada and Pacific FC, a professional soccer franchise in the brand-new Canadian Premier League.
Keith Wells, executive director of the Greater Victoria Sports Tourism Commission, says, “The health and wellness piece is so important in Langford.” The North Langford Recreation Centre, situated at Bear Mountain, attracts local residents with its swimming pool, co-ed gym and group fitness classes. “And Bear Mountain Resort is a jewel, with its two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses,” says Wells.
Bear Mountain’s bike park also welcomes the national mountain bike team year-round with world-class single-track trails, and its new 27,000-square-foot tennis bubble has doubled as a venue for the national boxing championships.
The so-called Hub City of central Vancouver Island dazzles with the Steve Smith Bike Park, named after a local mountain biking lengend. The 2017-built venue’s 2,500-square-metre asphalt pump track annually hosts the Canadian qualifier for the Red Bull Pump Track World Championship.
“We also have more than 70 mountain bike trails, which are well-maintained by the Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club,” says Tourism Nanaimo spokesperson Karen Bannister. Meanwhile, the Westwood Lake Triathlon in May attracts athletes with its pristine park setting beneath Mount Benson.
With four NHL-sized hockey rinks, this affordable city provides ample recreational hockey opportunities, plus the chance to cheer on the Nanaimo Clippers, a BCHL Junior A team whole NHL alumni include Mel Bridgman and Jason Garrison. The city recently hosted a sold-out World Junior exhibition game between the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Kamloops bills itself as the Tournament Capital of Canada, and this revitalized city of 90,000 isn’t exaggerating: Kamloops is slated to host close to 100 sports events in 2019.
“It’s very affordable to leave big urban centres for Kamloops, buy yourself a great home in a great location and have sports amenities at your fingertips,” says Monica Monford-Dickinson, director of communications with Tourism Kamloops. “Whether you’re looking for rugby pitches, curling rinks, indoor volleyball, basketball courts or speed-skating tracks, there’s no shortage of infrastructure for all sporting needs.”
Tobiano and Talking Rock are two of the area’s premier golf courses. Skateboarders head to McArthur Island Park for the Kamloops Rotary Skatepark. For hockey fans, the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers fight the good fight at the well-maintained Sandman Centre. Excellent fishing, golfing, mountain biking and skiing round out the picture.
With about 2,000 hours of sunshine per year and around 20 courses within easy driving distance, Kelowna is a golfer’s paradise. Yet the Okanagan’s largest city has much more to offer.
For runners, the Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon each June concludes wtih local wine, cider and music on the Okanagan Lake waterfront. At the H2O Adventure & Fitness Centre, the Okanagan Masters Swim Club delivers fun and friendship for adult swimmers.
Hockey fans gravitate to the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets (once home to NHL snipers like Leon Draisaitl and Jamie Benn), who play at the 6,886-capacity Prospera Place. The Rockets will host the Memorial Cup in 2020.
Cranbrook, the East Kootenay’s biggest city, delivers family-friendly sports along with great property values. From indoor soccer for kids and women’s basketball at local schools to swimming lessons at the Cranbrook Aquatic Centre and public skating at Kinsmen Arena, there are plenty of appealing year-round options.
Six golf courses lie an easy drive from downtown. Fly fishing and hiking await beneath the Rocky Mountains. In the winter, skiers flock to Kimberley Alpine Resort (20 minutes away) and Fernie Alpine Resort (an hour away).
In Vernon, Predator Ridge is Hockey Canada’s summer home. NHL legends such as Jerome Iginla and Shea Weber often play the two Les Furber-designed championship golf courses there.
In addition to golf, Predator Ridge also has more than a dozen sporting activities, from yoga to tennis and pickleball courts, ideal for both playing and socializing. Shuttle service to the brand-new 48.5-kilometre-long Okanagan Rail Trail is available for cyclists. Come winter, Predator Ridge becomes the launching pad for Kingfisher Hell’s heli-skiing operations, with flights to experience some 300,000 acres of pristine Monashee Mountains powder.
In the summer, head to Vernon’s Kalavida Surf Shop for B.C.’s biggeset selection of boards and paddles, and hit Kalamalka Lake to hone your stand-up paddleboarding skills. Vernon has a number of sports complexes used for hockey, ball hockey, lacrosse, roller blading, swimming, curling and boxing.
Enjoying Naramata Beach wines in Penticton is never a guilty pleasure, because there are so many ways to burn off those calories over a long outdoor sporting season. Go swimming in Skaha Lake, cycle along the Kettle Valley Railway Trail or play a round at the Penticton Golf and Country Club’s 18-hole, par-70 championship course. This Okanagan city seamlessly integrates lifestyle options and recreational amenities. “It’s the kind of place where people come to visit for holidays–and never went to leave,” says Penticton economic development specialist Jennifer Vincent. “In fact, many people end up relocating here based on their experience in a sporting competition or event.”
Budding hockey stars can enroll in Okanagan Hockey Group’s academy or summer camps, which have operated since 1963. Catch exciting BCHL junior hockey action with the Penticton Vees at the 5,000-capacity South Okanagan Events Centre.
By Lucas Aykroyd