Recreational facilities ‘limping along’ in Yukon’s communities, says AYC

There's nothing wrong with building a brand new outdoor sports complex - but don't forget about the communities and their needs.

There’s nothing wrong with building a brand new outdoor sports complex – but don’t forget about the communities and their needs.

That’s the message from Association of Yukon Communities president Wayne Potoroka to the territorial government in response to proposed plans to build a $7-million outdoors sports complex in Whitehorse’s Whistle Bend subdivision.

Whitehorse city council needs to first approve a zoning amendment bylaw that would give the government permission to build on the seven-hectare parcel of land.

Potoroka said the association recognizes the need to have working, viable recreation facilities in all communities.

“It’s great that people want to invest in new soccer fields, who wouldn’t think that’s a good idea?” he said.

“But we also can’t lose sight of the fact that there are communities that are just limping along with what they’ve got.”

He stopped short of saying the $7 million could be better spent elsewhere, but he did have a few examples of pressing needs for recreational infrastructure around the territory.

He mentioned Dawson City’s Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre, which has been mired in controversy since it was completed in 2004.

According to a 2009 report, the building, which includes a hockey arena and a curling rink, was built on melting permafrost.

The Yukon government has promised millions of dollars to fix the current building, but so far only about a million has been spent by the city.

Dawson has also promised a new recreation centre since at least 2011.

“We have a recreation centre that we’re trying to wring the most life out of,” Potoroka said. “We’re doing the best we can with less-than-perfect tools.”

Carmacks’s outdoor skating rink is another example, he said.

In December, a routine inspection revealed the supports holding the roof above the ice were unstable. The village council made the decision to shut it down indefinitely.

Since then, the council has been in discussions with the Yukon government to determine whether to fix the structure or tear it down and build another, said Mayor Lee Bodie.

“If I had my wish list, there would be all kinds of things, but realistically what we can afford and what we want are two different things,” he said when asked if there were other infrastructure needs in the small community.

“We’re working on things, but council hasn’t made any decisions, so I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.”

In Faro, deputy mayor and AYC executive member Diana Rogerson said the town’s recreation centre is in good shape.

But at least one-third of it is being used for storage, while the curling rink hasn’t been used for the past several years because the cost of running it far exceeds the capacity of users to pay for it.

“So the town is now assessing what the recreational needs are for the community,” she said.

“It’s not a facility that we want to see closed or in a state where it’s not usable for the community.”

In fact, from Faro’s perspective, the town has always had a strong relationship with the territorial government and infrastructure needs have been met, Rogerson said. Her concerns about the proposed outdoor sports complex come from the way the government has undertaken the process with Whitehorse, with only limited work done with the city and its residents to establish whether there’s a real need for the facility, she said.

“It’s concerning that that amount of money is being spent in a community where very little public consultation appears to have taken place,” she said.

“And it appears there’s been very little interaction between the different levels of government on that issue. As a council representative, that’s concerning to us.

“If a precedent is being set in another community where things are handled in a way that leaves the residents and respective councils feeling like they haven’t had a say in the process, then that’s a concern for all Yukon communities.”

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis said there might be feelings in the communities that Whitehorse has more opportunities “that aren’t proportionally afforded elsewhere.”

But it’s important to remember that the city never asked for this facility, he added.

“It’s not something that the mayor and council has been beating a drum and asking for, thinking there’s a real need for it,” he said.

“This isn’t something that we came forward with and said ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have this.’ We still really want to look into some technical aspects of it.”

Second and third reading of the zoning amendment bylaw is now scheduled for April 27.

Contact Myles Dolphin at