It was a low-key opening for a building that has been awaited by the community since the summer of 2016, when demolition began on the town’s old rec centre.

Hay River’s new recreation centre opened on March 13 with no ceremony, just an open house which allowed visitors a look around the facility.

Visitors enter the new recreation centre as it opens on March 13. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Mayor Brad Mapes said roughly 350 people turned out for opening and he said the reaction was pretty well all positive.

As for his own reaction to finally having the rec centre open just days before the beginning of the Arctic Winter Games, Mapes said it was a relief.

“It’s going to be something that showcases our community and it’s going to give an opportunity for us to hold a lot of events,” he said. “And I guess the Arctic Winter Games is a great way to showcase to everybody in the North.”

The response from the people wandering around the building on opening night was positive.

“I think it’s a real, real beautiful building,” said Larry Dragon. “I think it’s worthwhile waiting for.”

Sue Warren also described the new building as beautiful.

“I think it’s a great facility for our community,” she said.

Warren noted the ice surface – NHL regulation size – looks big and state of the art.

Six-year-old Annalee Monkman also likes the new rec centre, especially the “really high” walking track above the ice surface.

Paulette Broekaert looks at the ice surface during the March 13 opening of the new rec centre.

“You can get exercise on it,” she said.

Gary Hoffman likes the fact that the complex is brand new.

“Our other one was getting pretty old. It was time for a replacement,” he said. “It’s nice and bright. It’s new. It’s a good location. It’s right downtown in the same place.”

Hoffman, a curler, also welcomed the new curling rink, which was not open on March 13 for people to explore.

It was unfortunate that a couple of seasons of curling were lost during the construction project, he said. “But hopefully we can get all the members back. It’s a brand-new facility.”

After the opening to the public – from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 13 – the facility was turned over to the Arctic Winter Games for the duration of the international event.

The recreation centre’s opening was just five days before the games’ opening ceremonies on March 18.

The $23.5-million project was completed by major contractor Clark Builders.

Mapes said some seasonal deficiencies will be taken care of over the summer, and other items will be dealt with after the Arctic Winter Games.

When the demolition and rebuild project began in the summer of 2016, the target was to have the work completed by October of last year.

That target was changed to just before Christmas last year, then late January and then mid-February before the town stopped giving target dates.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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