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Games squash tournament finds a home

Better Bodies has stopped strong-arming the city, ending a standoff that put the Canada Winter Games’ main squash venue in jeopardy.

Better Bodies has stopped strong-arming the city, ending a standoff that put the Canada Winter Games’ main squash venue in jeopardy.

Gym owner Jim Oster will let the sporting event use his facility, though he still considers city plans to expand its weight room at the Canada Games Centre “unethical.”

On Friday, Oster signed off on a deal that would make his three squash courts available to the Games.

 “The issue was never with the Canada Games, we’ve had a great working relationship with them,” said Oster.

“Our issue was with the city.”

Oster delayed signing the agreement to host the Games’ squash tourney because the city put itself in direct competition with his gym by upgrading the weight equipment in its Games’ centre, he said.

Since Oster owns the only squash courts in Whitehorse, his reluctance to sign the agreement had Games’ officials wondering whether Whitehorse could host the squash tournament.

“We weren’t holding the Games for ransom,” he said.

“We just wanted clarification as to what was going in the (Games’ centre) and, to this point, we haven’t even had a response from the city and that issue remains unresolved.”

The city is not trying to compete with private gyms, Whitehorse mayor Bev Buckway said on Friday.

The city is simply replacing two universal gyms with stand-alone weightlifting apparatus, said Buckway.

“It’s not like we’re trying to get new, great, huge, more expensive things; we’re just trying to replace what is there,” she said.

Buckway has not received any of the e-mails or letters written by Oster expressing his concerns, she added.

In an e-mail from the city’s parks and recreation department, Oster was told the $50,000 Games centre upgrade would include increasing the weights available to a maximum of 50 pounds.

“The original name of the area up there was the Wellness Centre and you know you have to be pretty well to start lifting 50-pound dumbbells, so clearly they are moving into another line,” said Oster.

“I think it’s a matter of ethics, it’s supposed to be a wellness centre, it’s supposed to be for a certain market — they’re surpassing that market and coming into private-sector market.

“Fifty-pound dumbbells, individual weight pieces and all that clearly moves into that genre.

“We don’t want them to be competing against us, we want them to stand with the original target market they were looking at, with the original equipment list they were looking at — there’s no reason to expand that.”

The Wellness Centre was meant to target youth, families and seniors, said Buckway.

“We were looking at a very entry-level user,” she said.

The issue would not be resolved until he and the city sit down to discuss where the two markets overlap, said Oster.

“We’re competing against our own tax dollars,” he said.

“If you go to any major centre where a multiplex has gone in and look at five years down the road, private business does get hurt.

“The outlook for private business, competing against a city-funded multiplex is not good.”

But Oster won’t beg the city not to compete with private-sector business.

“If it’s a concern to them and they see it as a real concern, they would come to us and say ‘OK, let’s see how we can deal with this issue,’” he said.