The dream is tangible now.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held last Friday, Oct. 13 at the site for the new $16-million Upper Skeena Recreation Centre in Hazelton. The doors are expected to open in November 2018.
Donors and all levels of governments are contributing to the project. On Friday it was announced the Gitskan Government Commission was giving another $1 million on behalf of Gitanmaax, Glen Vowell, Kispiox and Gitanyow.
The federal and provincial governments announced last October that they would contribute $8 million and $4 million respectively. An anonymous donor really got the ball rolling near the beginning of the effort by the Heart of the Hazeltons campaign with a $1-million donation.
Numerous corporations, organizations and individuals have stepped up with more donations, including Northern Development Initiative Trust, Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Ltd. Partnership, Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs, Office of the Wet’suwet’en, and the Bulkley Valley Credit Union.
But it was recognized by everyone in attendance that it took a lot of cooperation to get to this point and will take even more to make the project the success it is intended to be for the entire region.
Campaign leader Dr. Peter Newberry said another $2 million is being sought to make sure there will be transportation to and from the surrounding communities to ensure the recreation centre gets full use.
“I’m excited about the building for sure, but really excites me is the possibility of all of the programs that we’re going to be able to put together for kids: hockey and basketball and volleyball and all that stuff. But even more we’re raising funds so that we can support better recreation opportunities in the scattered villages of the Upper Skeena,” said Newberry.
“If we haven’t done that effectively, if the building doesn’t become a really effective catalyst for the development of healthy activity right across the Upper Skeena, then you will only have managed to only come up with maybe a portion of our potential.”
Gitanyow Chief Councillor Tony Morgan remembers when it became apparant that a new building was needed sooner rather than later.
“Two years ago, we were enjoying our children doing their practice when inspectors came in. All of a sudden they were telling the kids to get out. Kids didn’t even change, they said don’t even bother changing just get out. They found the beams were just hanging there and the structure of the building was very unsafe. We maximized the use of our arena, and I’m glad to see everything is coming together now,” he said.
Morgan believes that if they build it, people will come.
“For a number of years, all these community bands have relied on the arena. They came here and played league games of hockey. When the arena started to wear down and deteriorated, a lot of the players stopped playing. But once we get a new arena back in here, everything will pick up again. We’ll probably have a master’s league [with adult players] here as well,” said Morgan.
“A lot of the little kids in the surrounding communities, they still don’t know how to skate yet.”
The accessible 5,050 square-metre facility will have an ice surface and seating for about 500 spectators, a fitness room, a gym, and a community rental space. It will also have spaces for community programming in various areas such as wellness and personal development.
Other partners in the project include Hazelton, New Hazelton, and the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine.