The Pepsi Centre has to be the biggest sports topic of Corner Brook this past year.
There has been the investment in and redevelopment of the Annex. Protests were staged over another increase in rental fees for the facility. There has been much debate about management and the deplorable conditions the facility is sometimes left.
Without even a senior hockey team, the multi-purpose facility that resulted from the 1999 Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook remains highly underutilized. As a rink — with two surfaces that is — it gets plenty of use. Skating, hockey, and broomball keep the rinks going fairly consistently — no doubt still not to its full capacity.
The newly redeveloped Annex now houses the Saltos Gymnastics Club. They are a great tenant indeed. Gymnastics could be one of the best youth organizations in the city in terms of the exercise and fitness. And, it’s just so darn cute.
However, as I have said before, it can’t be at the expense of what that facility could provide to the sporting community. Word is, the city is looking to extend its partnership with the gymnastics club at the Pepsi Centre — utilizing the $850,000 it had for a new building that appears will never happen. A lot of creative things can be done with that kind of cash, but l hope everybody else is kept in mind.
When I heard what was being added to the Pepsi Centre, I was excited by the prospects of a gymnasium that the community could come together and use. Tom Stewart, the Newfoundland and Labrador Basketball Association’s western representative, said it best when discussing the consultant’s review of the facility. The place has to be affordable.
It is of no use to the causal athlete or small-time club when it faces a $90 per hour rental fee — or even $50 per hour, if it is an option to utilize just the one court. When your goal is to build something, a rent me sign should not be hung on such a facility, especially at that fee.
This facility is an asset to the Pepsi Centre, but it is not even listed under its facilities on its website. I mean, come on people.
My recommendation to the consulting firm, and ultimately the city, is don’t be afraid to get creative. Do something for the people of this city, and the region. Establish some programs — there are people and groups representing the various sports who are willing to help — and start opening up the facility to user groups for drop-in sports.
Sorry, it’s not build it, and they will come. It’s make it welcoming and affordable, and they will come.