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Programs underway at new high performance centre

Public access will be allowed on a trial basis by mid-October

The new Canadian Sports Centre-Pacific, Whistler Campus - also known as the athletes high performance centre - has already hosted camps from the national ski cross and freestyle teams, and this past Wednesday opened their new gym to the public through the Bodystorm Fitness program.

A legacy of the 2010 Games, located in the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood, the gym occupies around 4,000 square feet of space and features state of the art training equipment left over from the Games, as well as an evaluation centre and therapy rooms.

The first priority of the facility, according to manager Lucinda Jagger, is to provide a high performance environment for athletes at the provincial and national levels, which athletes can't get at other public gyms in Whistler. As well, the facility will support the athletes living in legacy housing at Cheakamus Crossing, visiting athletes in Whistler to train on the 2010 legacy facilities, and athletes that are enrolled in a wide range of recognized high performance programs based in Whistler.

"I've been to national training centres in Australia, the United States and Beijing when I worked in China, and I can say this facility is world class," said Jagger. "We're really lucky to have something like this."

The facility was opened to carded athletes recognized by provincial and national sports organizations on Sept. 1, similar to the high performance gym that opened at the Whistler Mountain Ski Club in 2006. The facility gets some funding from the provincial and federal governments to provide services to those athletes.

"Our mandate is to carded athletes and supporting that high performance programming... but once we have that established and we're providing services to these groups we can get into public access," said Jagger. She added that public access will be allowed on a trial basis for around six months.

Jagger expects to be able to welcome the public by Oct. 15, selling 10-time and 20-time passes to use the facility. The cost is still being decided, but it will be between $9 and $10 per visit.

The CSC-P campus will not be selling monthly or annual memberships because there will be blacked-out days and hours when the entire gym is booked by teams, such as an upcoming bobsleigh and skeleton training camp in the fall. The public will be informed of blackouts by e-mail a few weeks in advance, Jagger says.

The gym will open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the first few months, but hours should be extended from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Friday as staff is added. There are no plans yet to open on weekends, but Jagger has sent out a survey to Cheakamus Crossing residents to determine what their needs are and could adjust hours based on the needs of the community. Currently, the Bodystorm Fitness group has booked into the facility four days a week, three sessions per day.

"We're moving slowly," said Jagger of the gym's public access. "We can't interfere with athletes and coaches that are using this centre. The reality is that this place has to be good or teams won't come here to train. We need to be able to deliver what this place was created to deliver. At the same time we want to engage the community, and the health and wellness aspects of the community, by creating an atmosphere of excellence."

The centre has received some funding through an academy program that provides scholarships to youth aged 12 to 16 that have been identified by their provincial sport organizations. Those scholarships provide access to programming at the centre for one year, where athletes will have the opportunity to work with strength and conditioning coaches.

The academy program is multisport, but programs could be built around individual sports as well.

Also, the campus has been designated the official training centre for snowboard and freestyle athletes who qualify for a national institute program. It's targeting kids between the ages of 18 and 20 "who have nowhere to go," said Jagger. "They're past the club and provincial level but haven't found a spot with the national development team yet. What we've found is that a lot of kids in this age group are giving up their sports and going to school because there's nothing in between the provincial or club level and the national level - it was a gap in the system that we've found, and are trying to patch in a number of different sports."

Funding for the institute comes from provincial and national sport organizations, as well as the Own The Podium program.

For both the academy and institute programs, part of the draw is the gymnastics training facility next door. Jaggers says the campus plans to make use of Whistler Gymnastics Club's equipment and coaches to prepare athletes.

The CSC-P gym includes a 1,000 square foot cardio centre with 16 LeMond Fitness training bikes, three treadmills, a rowing machine and an elliptical machine. The bottom floor is 3,000 square feet and includes top-end equipment by Hammerstrength and Life Fitness, free weights, a sprint floor and various equipment for working on flexibility and core strength.

Just off the main room is a physical testing room where athletes can measure VO2 Max, Lactate, body composition, strength and other fitness metrics. There is an identical centre at the Canada Sports Centre - Pacific campus in Vancouver, which was also a legacy of the 2010 Games. Previously athletes would have to go to UBC for a full assessment.

The Whistler campus also has televisions that will allow athletes to watch themselves and analyze their performance. There is also a room with hot and cold tubs for therapy. Those tubs are temporary at this point but will be made permanent in the future.

The entire facility is also accessible to accommodate disabled athletes.

The facility will be a work in progress. Jagger's shopping list includes mirrors for the downstairs weight room, some benches, testing equipment and lockers. There is also a room that was designated as a sauna but is currently being used for storage.

"It's all coming together, but it's going to be a work in progress for a long time," said Jagger.