Sport groups meet to talk about future facility 

Several options, but need support of community

Without a full-time facility Whistler Gymnastics Club sets up and takes down every piece of equipment four days a week – bars, vault, floor sections, beams, trampolines, crash mats and more. It can take half an hour to set up the gym, and as much time to take it down each night.

At the same time the equipment is in demand. The Blackcomb Freestyle Club and Whistler Mountain Ski Club use the equipment, and there are frequent requests from the national snowboard and freestyle teams to use the facility. Because Whistler Gymnastics shares the Myrtle Philip gym with the school and other user groups, it can’t always make the equipment available.

"It’s tiring on the coaches and the kids, and all of the parents that help with set-up and takedown, and it’s hard on the equipment," said program director Tami Ross. Safety is also an issue.

The Whistler Gymnastics Club has been looking into the possibility of creating a full-time facility in the community for several years, and with the Olympics coming they know they have a good chance of seeing a facility as a Games legacy. They also know that their chance improves if all the clubs that have an interest in the facility are on the same page.

"When we were bidding for the Games I know we participated in a survey about what Whistler Gymnastics would like to see out of a facility in Whistler, but that was more than two years ago and we haven’t heard anything since. I think it’s important they know we’re still here, we still need a facility, and to know whether we can expect anything or can be part of whatever is built," said Ross.

Whistler Gymnastics hosted a meeting last Friday to make a list of groups that could benefit from a gymnastics centre, and to discuss next steps – construction on most legacies will start within the next two years, and the club is eager to ensure that it’s not left out of the plans.

Some of the groups that are interested include Whistler Gymnastics Club, Whistler Dance Academy, the Blackcomb Freestyle Club, Whistler Mountain Ski Club, Whistler Valley Snowboard Club, the Whistler Freeride Club, the national snowboard and freestyle teams, the Whistler Youth Soccer Club, and martial arts clubs. Other users could include local schools, international students with the high school and English as a Second Language schools, and summer camps for a wide range of sports.

Resident and visiting athletes in a variety of sports have also expressed an interest in a drop-in facility over the years to use foam pits, trampolines and other training equipment, and there is a possibility that skateboarders, BMX riders and other extreme sports athletes could be included in the design as well.

Among the people attending the meeting was Bob Calladine, who was there on behalf of the 2020 Sustainability Committee’s recreation and leisure committee.

"I’m here to see what sport organizations would like to see built in the community, find out who’s out there, what kind of facility people are looking for, and what kind of numbers we’re talking about," said Calladine.

"This is the community’s plan of what they want to see Whistler look like beyond 2010, and there’s obviously strong interest in recreational facilities."

What still has to be determined is whether the facility would be run by the municipality, by an independent non-profit group, or as a for-profit business. That will likely be decided by whether the facility is built as an Olympic legacy or is built by the interested groups – possibly with the help of corporate sponsorship.

The location for the facility is also up in the air. Some of the options being discussed include: an addition on Meadow Park Sports Centre that would be financed as part of an agreement with the Whistler Racquet Club; a part of a proposed Multiplex that would house a Paralympic sledge hockey rink; or facility connected to the athlete’s village in the Whistler Interpretive Forest or landfill. There are other options, but the proponents are not willing to go on record.

The gymnastics and trampoline facility would require about 6,000 square feet, which is about the size of a full gymnasium, plus another 2,000 square feet for programs like dance, yoga, martial arts and other programs.

The committee is hoping to meet with the municipality and possibly representatives from VANOC to discuss options in the next few weeks.

"I think this is something we have to get going on, and the first step is to contact the municipality and let them know we’re here… and that we want to be incorporated as part of the planning process," said Michael D’Artois, the head of the Whistler Gymnastics Club’s facility committee. "It looks like we have some strong possibilities, but we have to know where we stand before we can go on with any of them."

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