The 5,050-square-metre facility will house a rink, fitness room, gym, and a community rental space. It will also have spaces for community programming in various areas such as wellness and personal development. (Chris Gareau photo)

Upper Skeena Rec Centre could be biomass heated

Come for a tour inside the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre in Hazelton.

The up to 500 spectators sitting on the heated bleachers of the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre in Hazelton may be kept warm with a biomass heating unit.

Heart of the Hazeltons chair Peter Newberry said it would be in collaboration with the Gitxsan Developemt Corportation (GDC).

“It would help us heat the building short of the really peak loads and should save us about $50,000 a year in operating costs,” said Newberry.

The GDC is hoping to cover the cost with a federal government grant, according to Newberry.

“In turn it will produce some permanent jobs,” he added.

Newberry said if the planned massive pellet plant by the GDC for South Hazelton comes to fruition, it would be the natural supplier for the biomass heater.

READ: Proposed $45-million South Hazelton pellet plant

Workers from Kitwanga to Witset have already been hired to work on the rec centre project, which Newberry estimated meant 2,500-3,000 hours monthly for local workers.

He was at the construction site for a tour of the massive $16-million centre that will house a rink, fitness room, gym, and a community rental space. It will also have spaces for community programming in various areas such as wellness and personal development.

Construction safety officer Dylan Daniels, who is originally from Kitwanga and worked on the roof of BC Place, describes the status of the project:

Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson was also there and took note of the construction material being used.

“It’s great to see the glulam beams (glued laminated timber) being used. What part of the mandate letter from the Premier is directing me to do is to grow the engineered wood sector, so this is a good example of that,” said Donaldson.

The project is actually a prototype approved by the previous provincial government that can be used for future arenas built in B.C.

“As I go around the Province I can spread the word about a project like this when communities are looking at replacing facilities, and also at the Cabinet table when we’re talking about hospitals or schools or community facilities like this,” said Donaldson.

The rec centre is a rare example of many different levels and types of governments and organizations working together on a such a large project. The Regional District of Kitimat Stikine will own the facility, but it was put together with funding and efforts from all the First Nations and municipalities in the area, plus volunteers from the Heart of the Hazeltons, and the federal and provincial governments.

Newberry said he’s not aware of anything like it in Canada.

He added that transportation to the facility beside the current, roofless rink will be a key part.

“A key part all along has been that this be used as a springboard to support healthy activity in all the villages,” said Newberry.

The School of Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia is being asked to help design a health tracking process to measure improvements in the area, and to help design a transportation system that may link with the Highway 16 transportation system and add other elements.

See more photos and video inside the rec centre at interior-news.com.

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Workers putting together the heated bleachers along the future skating surface. (Chris Gareau photo)

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