More than 50 athletes will participate in a trial run this weekend to make sure everything is ready to run smoothly during the International Canoe Federation (ICF) World Canoe Polo Championships that will be held at the Welland International Flatwater Centre from July 31 to August 5.
Saturday and Sunday, teams will hit the canal in their kayaks and try out the new pitch, built specifically for the upcoming event with help from Niagara Catholic District School Board (NCDSB)'s Launch Centre.
"It's going to be our first chance to really test out some of the systems we've had created and set up for the worlds," said Richard Dalton, the City of Welland's manager of recreation and culture.
"It's really exciting," he added
A handful of regional events in the action-packed, rough sport have been held locally, as well as a national competition in 2013 — but next month's world finals will be a sight to see, according to Dalton.
"It's a really hard-hitting and intense sport," he said.
The play area will be about 45 metres long and approximately 35 metres in width.
"It's really quite amazing to see it all come together," said Dalton.
Twenty-six countries — combining for a total of 68 teams — will be represented at the worlds.
Dalton said it will equate to over 600 competitors in the tournament and another 600 people who will attend as spectators, on top of the many local sports fans who are expected to watch a match or two.
The canal and the flatwater centre are venues that have made a major impact on the city's identity — a place that hosts a number of versatile sporting events — including triathlons, swimming meets, canoe and Dragon boat races, and more.
"It really helps with continuing to brand the city as a place where events like this can come and thrive," said Dalton.
"Welland has a tremendous variety in sport hosting."
The work done through the NCDSB's launch centre, the construction of the docks that will be used, is state-of-the-art, according to Dalton.
"They did a great job. They were really well-equipped for this project," he said.
The Downtown BIA's Concerts on the Canal series will also coincide with the opening ceremonies of the world championships, as Canadian rock group Honeymoon Suite will hit the stage at the Merritt Park Amphitheatre.
The ICF is an organization responsible for the global sport of canoeing and consists of five continental associations and 164 National Federations.