After years of work, money and land have been found. Now the only thing in the way of Whitehorse’s new gymnastics and climbing centre is construction itself.
More than $30 million in federal government funding was announced during a June 29 press conference.
Elected officials and representatives of the gymnastics and climbing organizations, who have worked hard to realize a new space for the sport, gathered at the existing Polarettes Gymnastics facility to discuss plans for its replacement. Although a final design has not been made public, it is anticipated the new facility will be 3,000 square metres in size with separate areas for climbing and gymnastics. It will be located in Whistle Bend.
Yukon MP Brendan Hanley, who said his own children are among past participants in the Polarettes and other programs at the gymnastics centre, was on hand June 29 to announce the federal funding. The federal contribution totals $31.6 million. Yukon community services minister Richard Mostyn said the Yukon Government is providing another $2.5 million.
“When we build sports and recreation infrastructure, we’re building wellness and wellbeing. And we’re helping to keep our children, youth and adults healthy. So this building will be equipped to host events from birthday parties to national gymnastics competitions, bringing more people out to connect with the community and more people to enjoy our wonderful city,” the MP said.
Those assembled at the gymnastics centre attached to St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Secondary School heard that efforts to find the Polarettes program a new home to accommodate its surging number of members has been underway for almost a decade. Polarettes head coach Kimberly Jones explained how the project was initiated by Catherine O’Donovan, the club’s former head coach nine years ago. At that time, the Polarettes had 558 members. Jones said the club now has more than 1,400 members, a further 456 on a wait list and a partnership with schools that sees thousands more children through the doors each year.
The congestion in the Polarettes’ gym that hosted the press conference was evidenced by the fact that dozens of summer camp participants waited outside in the June sun for the conference to end before they could resume activities.
The Polarettes will provide all the equipment for the new facility with only the newest of the gear in the existing gym making the move to the new location.
“Our team feels confident and we feel ready to manage a larger space. We have 36 coaches now on payroll, an entire management team and a dedicated board. It’s safe to say that we’re limited only by our lack of space. We’ve been extremely grateful for this facility,” Jones said.
“We’ve just outgrown it. We appreciate that the Government of Yukon listened to our proposal and responded by bringing our vision to the federal government for their support. We feel heard and supported.”
Joti Overduin, speaking on behalf of Climb Yukon also expressed appreciation that climbing is being included in the design of the new facility, citing the sport’s local popularity and the importance of access to indoor recreation during the Yukon’s cold, dark winter. Overduin noted the various small climbing walls that have popped up around Whitehorse but said something significantly bigger is coming at the new gymnastics building. The climbing gym will be designed in a way that can accommodate bouldering and lead climbing competitions.
Mostyn was unable to provide a firm timeline for project completion but said these projects are generally taking 18 months to two years to be finished.
“Rest assured though, everybody wants to build as soon as possible,” he said.
The project has not been immune to the sort of cost hikes affecting most other large construction undertakings. Mostyn blamed the same suspects other ballooning budgets have been attributed to: the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues coming out of China and rising fuel costs, among others.
Mostyn was unsure what will become of the existing facility once the Polarettes have moved on to greener pastures. He said he is interested to discuss it with the ministers of Education and Highways and Public Works. Given the space crunch faced by schools, he anticipates that the school community will have ideas for what to use it for.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com