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Upper Skeena Rec Centre officially opens

Community room named in honour of Peter and Lynn Newbery

The Upper Skeena Recreation Centre in Hazelton came to life Sept. 14 with the schuss of blades on ice, the squeak of sneakers on wood and children’s laughter echoing in the engineered wood rafters.

Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine, and Phil Germuth, chair of the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine, cut a ribbon Saturday to officially open the state-of-the-art $20 million, 54,000 square-foot facility more than 10 years in the making.

READ MORE: More funds granted to Hazelton Arena

Following the ribbon-cutting Gitxsan elder Nikateen (Frances Simpson) said an opening prayer and ‘Ksan Performing Arts welcomed the hundreds in attendance with a celebratory dance before a number of emotional speakers took to the podium.

Alice Maitland the former longtime mayor of Hazelton almost came to tears as she spoke.

“I’m so unbelieving that this day has finally come,” she said. “It’s such a miraculous space.

“We thank God today, but we also thank every single contributor that has contributed to this space.

“So, thank you to everybody and thank you to the upper Skeena that just keeps fighting.”

Maitland characterized the finishing of the centre, not as an ending, but a beginning.

“You’re going to to make this building work for us, work for our kids, work for our community and be an example all across our country for rural and remote communities.”

After a number of other speakers, Diane McRae, emcee for the event, announced that the community room, which overlooks both the gymnasium and the rink, will be named after Dr. Peter Newbery, the tireless chair of the Heart of the Hazeltons fundraising committee, and his wife Lynn.

She said Newbery was the biggest contributor to the success of the project.

Dr. Newbery, visibly moved, said he was not expecting such an honour.

When the official elements of the event finished, the kids got a chance to play basketball in the gym and skate on the ice surface.

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Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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