Serve it up

YXU is going to be home to Canada’s only purpose-built indoor beach volleyball facility. It’s not as strange as you might think

Photo: Dave Ward and Kyla Woodcock, co-owners of Forest City Sport & Social Club and founders of The Beach Hangar (photo courtesy of The Beach Hangar)

THE STORY OF The Beach Hangar starts with loss.

In early 2023, without much in the way of warning, the owners of Spike’s Indoor Beach Volleyball announced it would be closing. “Tough news to read. My apologies. Spike’s will close its doors and courts in May 2023,” stated a post on the now-dormant website for the long-time indoor beach volleyball facility. “We do wish there was somewhere else in the city that could host and support our operations. There just isn’t unfortunately. We have searched for a new suitable location for many years.”

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Last December, in a final cosmic send-off, the old facility on Weston Street burned to the ground.

It is here that Kyla Woodcock and Dave Ward, co-owners of the Forest City Sport & Social Club (FCSSC), enter the story. “We had so much respect for what [owner Earl Misener] had created in Spike’s, and the service it had provided to the community,” Woodcock says.

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Woodcock and Ward wondered if they could pick up the torch and develop an indoor beach volleyball facility of their own. “And so began the search for the right building,” Woodcock recalls.

It didn’t take long to grasp what Misener had already figured out: nothing in town fit the bill. “It’s a really unique requirement. We quickly realized that there was nothing here in our city that would do the job.”

Serve it up volleyball Sports & RecreationArtist rendering of the interior of The Beach Hangar

But one tire that hadn’t yet been kicked was the London International Airport. CEO Scott McFadzean had been vocal about wanting to turn the airport district into a destination of its own; he’d installed pickleball courts and a skating rink and appeared to have an interest in inviting the community to the airport grounds for things other than a flight.

“We approached the airport team with the idea that we had to build something which is eerily similar to an airplane hangar,” says Woodcock. “The building structure itself, the size of the doors, the height of the building — these were all things required for an airplane hangar but also really important for a beach volleyball facility.”

“We want a place that’s full of play, that’s full of fun, that’s full of community members and competitive sport athletes connecting with each other and enjoying the sport” —Kyla Woodcock

The partners pitched what they thought was a “crazy idea,” and lo and behold, the airport liked it. “[The project] aligns with our vision to enhance the airport’s role as a signature destination in our community,” said McFadzean in a release. “It’s a unique venture that showcases innovative use of space and supports local land development.”

Thus, The Beach Hangar concept was born: a 23,000 square-foot facility that will feature six full-sized beach volleyball courts, plus a mezzanine that will be home to a restaurant lounge and viewing area. (The building will be airport property, but The Beach Hangar will be the “long-term lease holder and exclusive user of the space,” Woodcock adds.)

Serve it up volleyball Sports & Recreation

When completed in early 2025, the facility will be Canada’s only purpose-built public indoor beach volleyball facility and will be up to spec to host national and provincial competitions, in addition to recreational league play, birthday party bookings and a bunch of other sand sports run through FCSSC. The sand will be trucked in from Huntsville’s Hutcheson’s Sand & Mixes, which supplies volleyball sand to facilities and events around the world, including the past five Olympic Games.

Not only will it be a community destination, says Woodcock, but it will be a major addition for serious beach volleyball players, too. “The only indoor beach facilities in Toronto are either private, much smaller or they’re for the exclusive use of competitive and elite athletes,” she says.
Woodcock envisions provincial competitions, a varsity circuit and potentially national competitions like the Canada Games all being able to make use of the space. “To have a competition-level space like this is a huge part of what we want to accomplish.”

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There is one final piece the partners are looking for, and that’s a restaurant partner. They want to push beyond the simple snack bar and incorporate a full-fledged restaurant into the mezzanine area. “We’d like a place where you come for a really interesting casual lunch — a place where you can get elevated pub fare and great craft beer while you watch your kids or a competition,” Woodcock says.

Woodcock and Ward say the project at its core is about recreating something that was lost when Spike’s closed — they want to give that space back to the community. “We want a place that’s full of play, that’s full of fun, that’s full of community members and competitive sport athletes connecting with each other and enjoying the sport. That’s really what it is. That’s the goal.” Serve it up volleyball Sports & Recreation Kieran Delamont

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