There is high demand in Yellowknife for facilities at which young people can get active.
This year a new climbing wall was installed at the Fieldhouse, and a mountain bike park and new aquatic centre could open up in the not too distant future.
“We have a ton of use at all of our facilities,” said Grant White, Yellowknife’s director of Community Services, naming the Fieldhouse, the Multiplex, the YK Arena and the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool.
Yellowknife, he said, also benefits from strong sports and recreation groups that organize leagues, lessons and events at city facilities.
“The city is always responsive to our community organizations and to the various sport and recreation groups, and we try to accommodate as much as we can, and adapt our facilities as well,” he said.
The climbing wall is a perfect example of that adaptability.
The Yellowknife Climbing Club used to operate its own wall in the basement of the Yellowknife Guild of Arts and Crafts in Kam Lake, but climbers found the small space limiting.
After putting together a business plan and lobbying the city, the club got a six-metre top rope and bouldering wall erected at the Fieldhouse in April.
The club put money and resources toward building it, but the city owns the wall.
Chris Oland, the climbing club’s vice-president, said the wall has been consistently busy since it opened, and that a lot of the traffic has come from younger climbers.
“What’s nice about having it in the Fieldhouse,” said Oland, “is if you’ve got one child that’s on a soccer team, you can take the other one and have them climb on the wall for an hour and they’re being active and having fun at the same time.”
He said children ages 10 to 12 are especially good climbers because their strength-to-weight ratio is “off the charts.”
Young people also have a willingness to experiment and take risks.
“That fear of heights hasn’t set in and they’re still in that monkey bars stage where they haven’t lost that feeling of moving around in three-dimensional space,” said Oland.
Climbing, he added, “is definitely a sport you can start at young.”
Soon to be added to the city’s roster of sports and recreation facilities is a mountain bike park.
The Yellowknife Mountain Bike Club recently signed a partnership deal with the Rotary Club that gives the Rotary naming rights in exchange for a $50,000 donation, which will help pay for the design of the park.
“(The Rotary Club) has a really good track record for building positive community infrastructure,” said Geoff Foster, a Mountain Bike Club representative, citing Old Town’s Rotary Park and boardwalk. “They get it, the idea of having a free public facility that’s available to everybody to use, kids of all ages.”
The mountain bike club is expecting a contractor to visit Yellowknife in the next few weeks and hopes to see construction begin next spring.
“I’m super stoked about it,” said Foster.
The biggest-ticket facility on the city’s recreation wish-list is a new aquatic centre, which would replace the aging Ruth Inch Memorial Pool.
The 30-year-old pool is safe, said the city’s director of Community Services, but it’s reaching the end of its lifespan.
That’s why the city is exploring the possibility of a new and improved aquatic centre.
The federal government will pay up to 75 per cent of the costs of a new pool, if the city can drum up the rest.
But the estimated cost ranges widely: between $30 million and $60 million.
It’s too early to say right now whether the pool would be Olympic-sized and whether a hot tub, sauna, or water slide would be included – or even whether a new pool will be built at all, said White.
The city has, however, secured $12.9 million in federal funding for consultations and preliminary development.
A new aquatic centre in Yellowknife is a thrilling prospect for Sport North, which represents more than 30 sports organizations in the Northwest Territories.
“It’s definitely exciting to see new facilities like that come into play,” said Kendra Wambold, Sport North’s marketing and communications officer. “Things like that, they encourage people to go out and get active.”
Wambold said an aquatic centre could make Yellowknife an attractive location for major youth sporting events such as the Canada Winter Games.
The reasons to support athleticism in young people are abundant, said Wambold.
Children who play sports do better in school are more focused, she said.
“They’re not out causing shenanigans, and they set themselves up a little bit better for the rest of life, really,” she said.