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Band-aids aren't working at Pemberton centre

Community Centre will close Jan. 31, SLRD looking for options
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy

There are long-term solutions available for Pemberton's crowded recreational facilities; the problem is what to do in the short term following the closure of the Pemberton Meadows Community Centre on Jan 31.

The Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) decided Dec. 12 at a board meeting to terminate the lease agreement with School District 48 for the centre.

"We're into in excess of $100,000 (a year) of taxpayers' money on a building that needs a lot more work on it and we don't own it," said Peter Duhault, Manager of Recreation Services.

"The band-aids aren't holding anymore, the wounds are too deep," he said.

While some groups may find suitable alternative venues at either the new Cottonwood Community Centre or the village's two schools, the sporting groups which require specific space or storage areas have been unable to find alternatives.

"(Cottonwood) is a passive recreation centre," said Duhault

"It does not meet all the sport and recreational needs of the community."

The SLRD met again on Tuesday to discuss alternative options after Jan 31, however there was no easy solution on the table.

"I think everybody realized it will leave us a gap, up to a period of years," said Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy.

"The issue is how do we bridge this gap."

An idea was floated to separate the gym from the rest of the centre in order to reduce the expected cost of bringing the structure up to code. However, for the gym to pass inspection it would have to be physically separated from the rest of the building and there is also asbestos that would have to be removed. As yet there has been no definitive assessment of how much it would actually cost to just preserve the gym.

"I put the challenge out to council that if we want to pursue this further then we need to do a bit of homework," said Sturdy.

"The consensus around the table seemed to be that we should be looking at other options."

One solution that was suggested was to build a basic steel structure building on a concrete slab in the industrial park. With a relatively low price tag, the building could function as a gym and later be purchased by the Village of Pemberton to use as a public works building.

Until a stopgap solution is found, cooperation with School District 48 on using school facilities will be the only way for some recreational groups to continue their activities.

"The school district recognizes the problems that we are all having here and they need to be part of the solution," said Sturdy.

"They're willing to work wit us on that and make available the school facilities in a way that's more seamless than it's been in the past."

The school district will more than likely represent the long-term solution to Pemberton's recreational facilities. Signal Hill Elementary School does not currently have a gym big enough to house the entire student body at assembly and is already exceeding its design capacity for student numbers. Additional facilities will inevitably need to be constructed at Signal Hill and there are also plans in place for a middle school in Pemberton to support the growing community.

But the community has not given up on the Pemberton Meadows Community Centre yet. Councillor Mike Richman runs the drop-in basketball program and has been encouraging the community to help get the gym building at the Meadows Centre up to standard, if only to get the recreational programs through the next two to three years.

"Without continuity, people will drop out and I think the attendance will suffer badly," said Richman.

He went on to comment that with four to five programs running a night, Monday to Friday, that there are plenty of people who are passionate about keeping the venue alive.

He said: "I believe there's a lot of people who would step up with manpower and resources."