Once A Stinger, Always A Stinger
Retiring Recreation and Athletics Director Brought Facility Development to ConU
It still hasn’t sunk in yet for Katie Sheahan.
You can see it in the way her eyes light up when discussing all things Stingers. You can tell by the fact she continues to use ‘we’ when talking about the recreation and athletics department’s plans.
You wouldn’t think this was a woman who on Feb. 21 had announced her retirement. But then, you don’t know Katie Sheahan.
“It’s a big decision on one level, because while you may retire from a job with a mandate, you don’t retire from connections, people and environments,” said Sheahan, who will officially retire from her position as Concordia’s recreation and athletics director on May 31. “It’s not easy to do that, so I have to say it comes with mixed emotions.”
She’d been contemplating the decision “in the last little while,” looking forward and making plans for the future.
“I have a retirement goal of building a house,” she said. “My husband and I would like to get at that while we’re still able to swing and contribute to the building, so our plan is to move to Prince Edward Island and build a home.”
It’s a fitting plan, considering Sheahan’s spent most of her life in project development.
Upon graduating from Concordia with a BA in sociology in 1978, the Montreal native began working full-time as the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce YMCA aquatic director. There she continued to move up the career ladder until she was the executive director of the organization’s downtown branch, where she led the redevelopment project in 2001.
Asked in December 2002 by Concordia’s recreation and athletics department to volunteer in a planning process for the department’s future facilities, Sheahan then offered her candidacy for the vacant director position in February 2003. Four months later, she had the job.
Having never been an athlete or coached organized competitive sports, it was a position that came with a steep learning curve for Sheahan.
“In that time, coming from a background that had a very broad base in recreational activities and […] having had quite a bit of building experience and project development experience, the one area where I really had to go to school was on everything inter-university sport and athletics,” she said.
It’s something Sheahan had to learn on the job, balancing her mandate to develop Concordia’s facilities all while ensuring the university’s sports remained competitive.
“There will be a Stinger in my heart and tattooed in my mind forever.”
—Katie Sheahan, Concordia’s Recreation and Athletics Director
Since Sheahan took over 10 years ago, the result has been the development of the university’s outdoor turf fields in 2003, the fitness centre Le Gym in 2005, the Stinger Dome in 2009, the research facility known as the PERFORM centre in 2010 and later this year the completed renovation of the Ed Meagher Arena.
These are projects that haven’t gone unnoticed. “She’s certainly helped the department grow in the past 10 years,” said Concordia VP Services Roger Côté, who is leading the search for Sheahan’s replacement and has worked closely with her over the years.
“I think her support, caring demeanor and commitment to help students reach their potential both on and off the field will be one of her hallmarks.”
What likely won’t be, however, is the Stingers’ struggle for success in her time as recreation and athletics director. Concordia’s varsity teams have collectively won a mere 10 provincial championships since Sheahan took over, none of which have come from the university’s football, hockey, soccer or women’s basketball teams.
Part of the reason is the department’s decision to attribute more resources to creating spaces than to the varsity teams themselves, something Sheahan has explained before.
“There are always going to be choices that you make about where you place your investments,” she said.
“These choices are not directed by the whims or the opinions of one person. Having said that, based on the information and the priorities identified in 2002, creating the spaces and working on the facility development was the clear directive.”It’s something Sheahan says remains “equally important [to winning].”
“Did I support the plan of attack [from] 2003 to 2013? Absolutely, because I believe that it was vital for the entire student community. Because there is no athletic director here—there is a director of recreation and athletics,” she continued.
Don’t think that plan of attack made her any less a fan of the Stingers, however.
“All my bee memorabilia will be coming with me,” said Sheahan, who was a regular at Stingers home games. “There will be a Stinger in my heart and tattooed in my mind forever.”