Construction on Upper Skeena Arena going smoothly after a tough winter

Pilot project to train indigenous young people for recreation leadership position underway

Construction on the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre is in full swing and the building is now fully enclosed with work underway to the interior.

The more than $16-million project will replace the former 50-year-old ice arena next door and will include a year-round community recreation centre with programs and services for all ages, all sporting and cultural interests, as well as serve as a gathering place.

Despite a few set backs, Heart of the Hazeltons Fundraising Campaign chair Dr. Peter Newbery said the construction is going well.

“The building is enclosed, the interior work is being done, the concrete is being poured and the electrical system is being installed currently,” he said.

The society is also still looking for some capital money but isn’t sure exactly how much they need with some unexpected problems that have popped up.

At first, they ran into bedrock that needed to be blasted when construction began. Then they had to deal with contractors who under bid and couldn’t do the work for what they said they could, so some things had to be re-tendered. It was also a tough winter with a lot of snow that slowed things down, but Newbery said construction crews are fast at work making up time.

A lot of the work is being by local workers.

“About 3,000 per hours a month of local employment is being provided in the construction.

“These are local people, from the Hazeltons or the region who have the skills and capabilities of providing things like carpentry, electrical, heavy equipment operating and those types of things,” added Newbery.

Not only has the federal and provincial government provided for the project financially, Newbery said the regional district, local municipalities and the Gitksan Government Commission have been very supportive and have stepped up financially.

“There has been huge local support,” he said.

Heart of the Hazeltons is still looking for funds to operate the recreation centre once it is completed and are working on strategies to reduce operating costs.

The group is also now working closely with the Ministry of Sports, Recreation, Arts & Culture on a new project to tie in with the vision of addressing the educational, health and social needs of the communities through this recreation centre.

“They [Ministry of Sports, Recreation, Arts & Culture] have recognized the need for training Indigenous young people for recreation leadership position; so using Hazelton as a template, are developing a training and education program that will train people to operate the rec centre and then hopefully there will be new opportunities as a result of the template that Hazelton has created to train Indigenous recreation leadership for the whole province,” Newbery said.

“We’ve been working two excellent consultants in public recreation who are volunteering their time to help us to pull together a training program that would be applicable here in Hazelton and would apply to our vision for recreation in the Upper Skeena, but then could be transferred to other First Nation communities for development of their recreation leadership.

It is a really neat thing to be on the forefront of something like this and be able to provide some support and leadership for Indigenous recreation leadership right across the province.”

Newbery is hopeful the arena will open in mid or late fall.

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Progress on the inside of the recreation centre. Contributed photo

The walls are up on the Upper Skeena Rec Centre. Chris Gareau photo

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