The last allocation of funding to finish the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre in Hazelton may finally be in place and an opening imminent.
On Apr. 15, Doug Donaldson, minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and MLA for Stikine, announced $500,000 to finish the gymnasium floor and purchase fitness equipment.
The funding comes from British Columbia’s Rural Dividend Fund (RDF), a pot of money created to “help rural communities navigate changes impacting their economies, such as attracting and retaining youth, using innovation to drive economic growth, and developing new and effective partnerships to support shared prosperity,” according to the RDF web page.
Donaldson, whose hometown is Hazelton and who was serving on village council when the now-$20 million centre was first conceived more than 10 years ago, was personally excited to make the announcement.
“It’s exciting because it’s much more than simply an ice arena or recreation centre, it’s a place where people come to gather and build the relationships that are necessary for when we encounter more challenging times within our community. So, the health and the social benefits are just through the roof and it’s something that people in this area have been really working hard towards. An unbelievable amount of time and energy has been put into it, so really looking forward to the official grand opening.”
Operating funds are still a question, but Donaldson says there are avenues for the facility to explore.
“There are operating programs that are available to recreation centres in the province,” he said.
“There’s lots of different needs that it fulfills in the community, a facility like that, so there’s many different ministries that would be able to have programs that [the centre] could apply to, whether it’s on the youth side or whether it’s on the health side or whether it’s on even the tourism or arts side, there’s many different avenues to for [operating funds].”
The facility is a state-of-the-art building that features an NHL-sized rink with heated seating for 500 spectators, a multipurpose gym, fitness centre, meeting rooms and kitchen.
Construction delays have set back the official opening anticipated for early spring, but project proponents are confident it will still open this year, at least in time for hockey season.