Markham’s Islamic Centre among thousands of sports facilities that can be rented with a few clicks

·2 min read

Toronto-based startup CatchCorner has launched an app allowing users to rent sports facilities like hockey rinks, skating rinks and basketball courts in just a few clicks.

One of the most unique spaces people can rent is the Islamic Centre of Markham (ICM), which regularly holds interfaith outreach programs and community-based events, but not a lot people know that the mosque is also home to a multi-use gymnasium, offering the community an opportunity to engage in a wide variety of sports, including karate, basketball, table tennis, badminton, floor hockey, cricket, volleyball.

“We appreciate CatchCorner for listing our facilities on their app. Being on CatchCorner has increased our facility's marketability and provided us with much needed visibility in the community,” said Mohammed Nabil, manager of ICM.

Nabil recognizes the positive impact the app has brought to the centre. For instance, he said, they were looking for an avenue to broadcast their brand new official sized basketball courts, and CatchCorner helped them fill this gap.

The CatchCorner app now has over 350,000 listings across Canada, with over 190,000 of those being in the GTA alone, from mom-and-pop facilities, community centres, schools, to NHL team practice facilities.

“Our platform enables residents to have access to different sized facilities in their own neighbourhoods,” said CatchCorner co-founder and chief operating officer Maya Azouri. “We’ve partnered with these spaces to showcase availability and provide a seamless booking experience for sports enthusiasts of all ages.”

CatchCorner was founded in 2019. The inspiration behind the app stemmed from Azouri’s personal difficulty to find and book spaces to play sports.

“We noticed numerous challenges from a customer's perspective — Where can I rent? Who do I call? What’s available? These are all time consuming and tedious questions to answer,” she couldn’t help thinking. “If booking a hotel on Expedia is so easy, why can’t it be the same for sports facilities?”

From its inception to now, Azouri experienced many challenges, including the initial obstacle of starting a business, figuring out how to design and build an app, finding the right team, growing the customer base, and facility closures during COVID-19 due to government shutdowns.

In 2021, CatchCorner and Sports Illustrated reached a consensus on co-operation. This partnership fuelled cross-category growth and geographic expansion for the app. In 2022, CatchCorner processed $20 million in bookings for its partner facilities, and monthly active users grew from 50,000 to 150,000.

While celebrating the achievements, Azouri knows there’s much to be done.

“We’re happy we can help people save time and effort on both the facility and customer sides. Our goal is to encourage more participation in sports, fitness, hobbies and passions, both youth and adult,” she said.

Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Economist & Sun