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Thursday, Apr. 25, 2019
Wolves and Spartans: A partnership that was meant to be
by Randy Pascal

On the surface, a marriage of the Sudbury Wolves and Sudbury Spartans organizations might not, at a glance, seem like a natural fit. But drill down a little further, and one can see where some interesting opportunities exist.

That was the message being delivered by representatives of both groups last week, as news of the acquisition of the Spartans by local businessman and current Wolves' owner Dario Zulich was made official at a media reception at the Radisson Hotel.

While it was a chance meeting between Zulich and Spartans manager Bill Costello that first lit the spark on this discussion, it did not take long before realization of the string of possibilities came to light.

"His vision that he has for the Sudbury Spartans is very much the same vision that he has for the Sudbury Wolves, and for sports in Sudbury in general," noted long-time Spartans' volunteer, player and coach Gord Goddard, speaking to the negotiations with Zulich.

"He wants to help sports in Sudbury flourish. It only takes one or two meetings with him to realize that his vision matches up perfectly with ours. He wanted to bring infrastructure to the team, so that we can take the team to the next level."

In fact, there was no indication that any changes would be made to the "football operations" side of the equation, in terms of coaching staff, general management, etc....

Moreso, it is on the administrative side where an immediate helping hand might be found. "Since 2011, we've looked at making the team better with every passing year, especially off the field," Goddard added.

"Now, instead of spending 15, 20, 30 hours a week in the off-season working on the infrastructure of the team, we can spend the time on recruiting efforts." While the Zulich family has enjoyed a connection with the local football community - Dario's brothers, Paul and John, both suited up with the Spartans at one time, as well as competing in the university ranks - the man leading the charge envisions a far more pragmatic partnership with his teams.

"There is a complementary or synergistic fit between the two teams that goes well beyond the calendar, where one season ends when the other one starts," stated Zulich. "It fits operationally, in areas such as cross-promotion and marketing, merchandising, food and beverage."

"Even strategically, there is a fit. You're looking at another historic team with so much pride, and we're just going to assist team management to try and achieve their goal of winning a championship."

In fact, according to Zulich, there might even be an element of a holistic collaboration taking place through this new merger. "It almost seems like this was meant to be," he said. "The colours of the two organizations are almost the same, they have both been around for decades, and they are both very prominent in the fabric of our city."

And while all of the above may be true, it would be naive to suggest that this additional piece does not serve a larger purpose in relation to the True North Strong concept that Zulich has been quite up-front in championing from day one.

"We're trying to create a sports and entertainment destination, first and foremost, for the City of Greater Sudbury," he acknowledged. "I've been working with a number of user groups in the area - soccer, baseball, football - and they are all looking for an enclosed turf facility, a fieldhouse."

Though there is certainly nothing concrete in terms of incorporating a venue that could, one day, serve as the home field of the Spartans, the suggestion clearly has merit.

"There is an opportunity to co-locate that kind of facility on the site as well, because we have the room to do it." The proposed True North site, at the east end of the Kingsway, offers a developmental property that covers some 175 acres, which could, potentially, include a new arena, a turf field that could be winterized, a new site for OLG development, as well as hotel and restaurant venues.

"Every piece you bolt on to the development is greater than the sum of the individual pieces themselves," summarized Zulich. In the meantime, with 2017 Spartans training camp having just commenced, it's business as usual for the local NFC (Northern Football Conference) team, with games this summer still to be played at the James Jerome Sports Complex, beginning with the home opener in early June.

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