© Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
The Pepsi Centre Annex houses the local gymnastics club, soccer and volleyball user groups.
Sharon Karn is all in favour of improving the Pepsi Centre as a true community facility, but not at the expense of its current or potential users.
Karn, the organizer of the Humber Valley Speed Skating Club, was one of the outspoken members of a concerned users group who objected to the increased costs of rental fees for the facility last year.
Now that council is spearheading a consultation into the current and future use of the Pepsi Centre, the costs of using it are again at the forefront for the woman who is cautiously optimistic about the approach.
“I am all for making anything more accessible to kids, anything to get our kids active, anything to promote any sport,” Karn said. “Speed skating happens to be my sport of passion, but as a coach, I believe in all sport.”
Karn will be presenting to the consulting firm tasked with examining prospective improvements and renovations to facilitate current and future needs of the public as part of a private session Tuesday afternoon. She also plans to attend the public session at 7 p.m. at the Pepsi Centre.
“I think it is great,” she said. “I think there is lots of space that can be utilized.”
Karn believes sport and recreation has changed over the years, and communities must adapt to meet the needs of youth.
“Unstructured play is gone, and structured play has evolved,” she said. “Whether we like it or not, whether we like the DSs or iPads or not, that is the way it is.
“If we don’t get our kids into structured play, than those kids are not going to have any play.”
Tom Stewart, the western representative for the Newfoundland and Labrador Basketball Association, is also interested in the development of structured play. With changes in the school system, particularly around amalgamations of schools, and more interest in club play for youth, he said there will be a growing interest in community gym space in Corner Brook in the coming year.
There will also be a growing interest from an adult perspective in such a facility, according to Stewart, with fewer school gyms becoming available through amalgamation.
He said it is important any changes to the Pepsi Centre facility accommodate all interested users.
“I think one of the things has to be making sure of available time for those users,” he said. “However, the pricing has to be so that all users groups can avail of the gym. Affordability is my biggest concern currently at the Annex.”
Meanwhile, Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender said the facility is still not fully utilized 17 years after it was constructed for the 1999 Canada Winter Games. The Annex was renovated last year to upgrade the multi-purpose facility into a potential mecca sporting venue.
It now houses the Saltos Gymnastics Club, which has somewhat limited its usefulness to other groups. With the potential to permanently house the club — whose new building tender surpassed the $850,000 budget at about $3 million — the mayor said it is important to maximize any future infrastructure changes for the entire community.
“Especially with what we have witnessed over this past year with the Annex, we believe if we can create the proper usable space that people would want to use than we can fill it up,” Pender said.
It is also important to receive the input of the entire taxpaying population, as they contribute the $850,000 annual subsidy, according to the mayor. He said the Pepsi Centre also has many potential uses outside of sports and recreation.
Pender said it is important to council to be able to maintain, or potentially lower user fees, but not jeopardize the operation.