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Progress continues on gymnastics facility

Whistler Blackcomb Foundation grant of $210K to pay for new equipment

There are still a lot of questions about the new Oros Training Centre, the future home of the Whistler Gymnastics Club, but thanks to a donation of $210,000 from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation the question of affording new equipment has been answered.

Dave Brownlie, president and chief operating officer of Whistler-Blackcomb — as well as the parent of a competitive gymnast — made the cheque presentation at Whistler Gymnastics year-end show on June 1.

“We contribute a pretty substantial amount of money to the community each year through our three programs (Telus Winter Classic, Telus Mountain Valley Golf Classic and Founder’s Pass)… and we’re always looking on an annual basis for something substantial to grant to,” said Brownlie. Past recipients include all the Whistler daycares and the new Pemberton daycare, the Whistler Health Care Foundation, and the Sea to Sky Trail network.

“We always look for things that are of a lasting benefit to the community, that relate to basic needs, health, families and so on, and that make a difference, and this year we looked at Whistler Gymnastics. It’s a well-run organization, they get a lot of kids through their programs, and they were very impressive in working with the Resort Municipality of Whistler to create a full-time space in the athletes’ centre. We felt, given the work they’ve done so far, the success of the program and the number of kids and families impacted that this was a great place to put our contribution.”

The Oros Training Centre is attached to the athletes’ centre currently being built beside Cheakamus Crossing, the 2010 Olympic athletes’ village. More than 2,000 athletes, trainers and coaches will have access to the athletes’ centre during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, when Oros will be temporarily converted into a cafeteria for athletes.

The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation grant will help the club purchase a competition size spring floor, a 10-metre tumble track, a new sunken trampoline, an above ground trampoline with wall mounts, two new sets of uneven bars, men’s gymnastics equipment, a foam bit, new beams, and other equipment. Additional equipment will also be purchased for Whistler Gymnastics preschool programs, which the club is hoping to offer daily once the facility is open to the club.

As well, Whistler Gymnastics will be sharing it with local freestyle skiers, snowboarders, school classes, martial arts classes, dance groups, and other local organizations.

“The decision was really about the gymnastics club, but certainly the other people that can use it will definitely benefit,” said Brownlie. “We have snowboarders, freestyle skiers, all kinds of different disciplines within the community that aren’t technically involved in gymnastics but do use the equipment. It’s a good thing, and I know most kids that grow up in this community will have an opportunity to use the equipment at some point.”

Jan Budge, president of Whistler Gymnastics, says the club was grateful for the foundation’s support.

“The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation has been supporting us by smaller amounts every year for purchasing different pieces of equipment, and we’ve been discussing this for the last few years knowing that this facility was coming. We were thrilled to find out that we were chosen this year,” she said.

Since Whistler-Gymnastics is a set-up and take-down facility, where the equipment is moved back and forth from storage every night, the equipment wears out faster than in a full-time gym. As well, the grant is funding equipment that the club has never had before given its limited time and storage.

“Right now we don’t have a full floor, we have three strips of floor to train on. We’ll have a 30-foot tumble track, which we’ve never had, full boys’ equipment that we’ve never had — a high bar, rings, pommel horse and parallel bars. We also have an in-ground trampoline with harnesses, as we’ve been talking with the national freestyle team, and for their training they need a certain roof height and harnesses.”

Budge says the goal is to fill Oros all day, seven days a week, with programs, including a new boys gymnastics program, trampoline and tumbling classes, local sports programs, summer camps, and gym meets.

It’s still unknown when the gymnasts will be able to start using the facility, before or after the 2010 Games. If they are allowed to move in before the Games, it will be with the understanding that they will have to move out for several months to allow the space to be turned into a cafeteria — the original plan for the space.

“VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) said they needed an area of a certain size and we said that’s perfect for us,” said Budge. “We initially wanted to be in the arena when that was being planned, but when we saw the huge shell they were going to have for the cafeteria at the athletes’ centre we said we can fit in there. Everything has been built for us, holes for the trampoline and foam pit, and they’ll just cover it up with wood flooring during the Olympics.”

Also unknown at this point is who exactly will manage the facility after 2010 — the Resort Municipality of Whistler contributed $2 million to construction, but it will likely be run by the Whistler Legacy Society, which is charged with running 2010 facilities after the Games. Whistler Gymnastics will pay rent to use Oros, but with a free hand to plan and run programming through the season.