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Granite Club Sports Coordinator Laura McKenzie anticipating a return to hosting big events

'We would get to host big events like the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling...and hopefully if all goes well, we will be able to start hosting big events again soon'
2022 02 04 Laura McKenzie headshot(1)
North Bay Granite Club Sports Coordinator Laura McKenzie

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The North Bay Granite Club is an organization that was established in 1950. For the last seven decades it has catered to the needs of the community through recreational and competitively organized events for curlers and tennis players.

The clubs Sports Coordinator Laura McKenzie can’t wait to be able to continue doing that on a larger scale.

“Managing through the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for us, more so on the curling side because we are indoors,” says McKenzie.

“Tennis is a bit different because we can guarantee that we are always going to be outdoors and can handle those restrictions.”

McKenzie, born and raised in Owen Sound, says it was those big events that drew her curiosity in applying for the position with the Granite Club in September of 2020.

“The fact that we would get to host big events like the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling and other big tournaments, so that’s been a little bit frustrating but hopefully if all goes well, we will be able to start hosting big events again soon.”

McKenzie originally came to North Bay to looking to pursue a career in education.

“I had intended on being a teacher, so I enrolled in the Physical Health and Education program at Nipissing, which also gave me the opportunity to play for the Nipissing Lakers Women’s Hockey team,” says McKenzie.

“I progressed through my first two years and I started to deviate a little bit away from the idea of teaching and I explored business. I ended up graduating with a minor in business and administration.”

McKenzie says it was because of a summer job she had while still in university that changed her mindset.

“I got to be a programmer for the Summer in the Park festival,” says McKenzie who adds she hopes one day a similar festival returns.

“I loved doing that and I always had this notion that being in business meant being glued to your desk for eight hours a day and that position changed that misconception for me.”

McKenzie says she did some reflecting on what she was passionate about after finishing her undergrad.

“It didn’t take long for me to realize that sport and business came out on top,” she says.

“I put those two things together and earned my Masters Degree in Sports Management at the University of Ottawa. That experience was jammed packed in theoretical and practical opportunities.”

McKenzie says sports management can lead to a very diverse range of career opportunities. 

“People ask me all the time ‘what is sports management?’ and so I always say that it is a business degree dealing with sports and recreation,” says McKenzie.

“The positions can be so diverse in this role. You could be working with professional sports teams, to national organizations, to grassroots organizations. I did an internship with the Ottawa Redblacks and that was something that is really important in this industry is the internships where you really make those connections.”

McKenzie says following her internship she headed back to North Bay.

“At that time, my partner was finishing his Masters Degree here at Nipissing University and so the deal was, whoever got a job first we would live in that city. He landed a position in North Bay, which brought me back to the city.”

McKenzie says joining the Granite Club as their Sports Coordinator really interested her because it was a “jack-of-all-trades position.”

She says, “It included many areas that I was interested in such as events, communications, marketing, league, and programming management and sponsorships, and those were the areas I studied during my masters program and so I was able to use that and put it all into one position. It really does keep the job very exciting, as it is never the same day-to-day.”

McKenzie says one of the more unique things about the position is the wide range of individuals they work with.

“We have members that are as young as five, to members that are over 80. We have many recreational members and we also have highly competitive members as well. We host a lot of community events, to a lot of provincial, national and even global events which speaks a lot to the diversity of the role as well as the North Bay Granite Club in general.”

She adds the fact they have a pro on both the tennis and the curling side gives them an advantage when it comes to retaining memberships.

“We’re very fortunate to have very high-level specific sport professionals,” says McKenzie.

“Fransua Rachmann is our tennis professional and Laura Johnson is our curling professional and they play a vital role in delivering these programs. They are constantly learning and doing extra education to really have some of the best programs in the north.”

McKenzie says she grew up playing highly competitive hockey and so the world of tennis and curling is still fairly new to her.

“So I’m fortunate to have those two as outlets to help me prepare with running those programs,” she says.

“It’s really about learning the structure of how events work and how leagues and programs work because it's so different from what I’m used to.”

Overall, McKenzie says it will be a welcome return when they can host events and build on those experiences.

“It’s very rewarding, and I love seeing sport played at all ages as it's something I’ve always been passionate about.”

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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