CORNER BROOK — Staff at the City of Corner Brook are pursuing a number of ways to improve recreation and sports.
The city’s recreation master plan is the guiding document in this area, and Paul Barnable, the city’s director of community services, said initiatives within it are pending the approval of capital funding. There are currently a number of applications submitted to the federal government in hopes of improving or changing the scope of existing facilities, he said.
The main hope is a renovation of the annex at the Pepsi Centre, that would transform the large facility into a multi-purpose sport complex. It would include gymnasium flooring, dividers, various sports equipment and infrastructure, and artificial turf to accommodate offseason baseball, or similar sports, practices. The facility would be able to maintain its conference capabilities too, said Barnable.
He said the refit would cost about $500,000, of which they have requested a federal contribution of about $165,000. The remainder would be expected to be cost-shared between the province and the municipality.
The city director envisions the annex as another revenue generator for the Pepsi Centre — providing much needed facilities and services to the sporting community — operated by Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland under the direction of Western Sports and Entertainment.
Barnable said some recommendations within the overall plan are being implemented, such as work at Margaret Bowater Park, the Corner Brook Stream Trail Network, and Bartlett’s Point. However, some of the major projects depend on a substantial influx of capital funding.
Projects such as turning the Monarchs Complex into a multi-field slo-pitch facility has been conceptualized and deemed a requirement. However, he said that would require significant funding to create.
Although the city is staring down an immense capital debt load, recreation and wellness continues to remain a high priority.
Coun. Gary Kelly says the recreation master plan will stay in the forefront of future planning, despite the major requirements of water and sewage treatment, because of its impact on the standard of living for current and perspective population.
“When you look at professional people, professional couples, doctors and lawyers, that is one of the reasons why they would want to choose Corner Brook as a place to live — for its outdoor facilities and recreational capacity,” Kelly said.
The guiding document for recreation needs is a compilation of all the city’s requirements if money is not an option, describes Kelly. However, funding availability, and affordability, will continue to be the driving force behind what will get done, and when. While there may be higher priority items in this plan, said Kelly, funding availability may determine when certain things can be accomplished.
He said a “rationalization” of the city’s soccer and softball pitches is high on the priority list right now, with a resolve to ongoing issues with respect to gymnastics and the future of the YMCA also topping the list. A permanent skateboard facility is also a top need. He said tackling some of the issues could create a domino effect into the other.
“Waste and sewage treatment are such priorities obviously,” Kelly said. “From my personal perspective, I see Corner Brook as a mini Whistler or a mini Vancouver with a great recreational area, and it’s part of the reason why people would choose to come to the west coast — the different levels of services, the walking trails, mountain biking and skiing. Healthy people equals healthy community.”
Kelly also believes the recreation commission itself needs to undergo a revitalization. He said the committee is about much more than recreation, but a health and wellness focus on fitness and lifestyle.
“Corner Brook has an older population compared to the province and compared to the country,” he said. “An elderly population tends to like gardening and walking more as opposed to organized sports. We are trying to find how we get all the key stakeholders involved and not just the legacy or historic sports like basketball, soccer and baseball.”
Current applications for recreation renovations include:
— A refit of the Pepsi Centre Annex, transforming it into a multi-purpose recreation centre
— Netting and warming track work at Fred Basha Memorial Field A Diamond
— An expansion of the beach volleyball facility at Wellington Street
— Outfield work for Jubilee Field
Source: Paul Barnable, director of community services