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Mount Currie breaks ground on community centre

$4 million centre includes funding from Live Sites program

The leaky roof and musty vents of Mount Currie’s community centre will soon be no more, as construction workers have broken ground on a brand new centre.

The facility, which is believed to cost around $4 million, will be 34,080 square feet and house a 1,000-square-foot exercise gym, a gymnasium and a commercial kitchen with 2,500 square feet of banquet area.

It’s being partly funded by a grant of approximately $330,000 from British Columbia’s Olympic/Paralympic Live Sites program. The program funds the development of Olympic event viewing venues, and will thus give Mount Currie a gathering place to see all the Olympic events on large screens in 2010.

For Larry Miller, general manager of the Lil’wat Business Corporation, the new centre is not going to be the fanciest facility but it’s a major improvement over the last building.

“The old one was completed in 1967 and it’s been in quite a bad state,” he said. “The roof started leaking probably 20 years ago, and they’ve had to do patches here and there and then they’ve had to repair some of the hardwood floor.”

The roof leaked so badly that it warped the floor and forced the centre to cut out the hardwood, Miller said, though that wasn’t the biggest issue with the old facility. Even worse was the building’s indoor air quality during the winter.

“The old ductwork is just gross,” Miller said. “Every time I went into the building in the wintertime when the heat was on, my breathing passages would clam up.

“I’ve seen in there and it’s pretty ugly in the ductwork and then it just didn’t meet the needs for the people.”

Getting coffee at an indoor sports game, meanwhile, could have been a dangerous experience in the existing facility. The concession stand opened up into the playing arena, and the only safe way to get a drink was to put up Plexiglas when the hockey games were on.

“You couldn’t get a coffee or anything because you’d get crashed into,” Miller said. “(You) had to watch the hockey balls flying at you.”

Watching events at the new facility should be an easier task, Miller said. Where the old playing arena only had seating for 238 people, making it standing room only for some events, the new one will have retractable seating for 500.

Another wing of the centre will house a new neighbourhood house, which will have lounges for mothers, babies and elders.

“In their culture, (the Lil’wat) like to bring their babies and elders together,” Miller said. “Then the elders will have access from that lounge directly into the exercise gym because they do physio with them.

“And not just elders, but those who need physio in general.”

Miller hopes the building’s shell will be up before winter and expects that construction will put the community to work in the coming months.

Ultimately, he hopes the centre can provide a gathering place for Mount Currie youth. The building has another 1,650 square feet that could be set aside for a youth centre.

“The kids just don't have anything to do,” Miller said. “We spent $100,000 last year just replacing broken windows. The kids had nothing else better to do than throw rocks.

“We probably could have built a youth centre with the money that we paid out in damages.”

The community centre is just one of a series of construction projects hitting Mount Currie in the coming months. A grocery store is being built at the same time and the centre will also give real council chambers to the Mount Currie band council, which until now has met in a trailer, according to Miller.

Construction of the new community centre will satisfy a key part of the Lil’wat Nation’s five-year strategic plan, which is supposed to be completed in 2010. One of the tenets of that plan is that a new Lil’wat7ul centre be built for the community, and Miller said the new facility will give Mount Currie what it needs.