Many renovation and restoration projects on the horizon for facility
It's a busy construction scene in front of West Hillhurst Community Centre. With new sidewalks being poured and the parking lot being paved, the scene represents a glimpse of the work that has been going on inside and out of this facility.
Just two short years ago, community volunteers, community association staff and board members were striving to keep this centre alive by changing the way the facility operated and getting its financials back on track.
This was no easy task as the facility faced approximately $90,000 of debt on top of about $7 million worth of renovations needing to be done to the current building.
"It's an exciting time for us," said Christa Denton, community liaison and sponsorship co-ordinator for the West Hillhurst Community Association. "We've moved from a state of crisis to the point where people can see change happening and can see the fruits of the fundraising labour."
Fundraising efforts have included private donations, buying naming rights to the facility available to families and businesses, and selling tickets to community gatherings such as its annual Taste of the Neighbourhood event.
Serving six surrounding communities and housing more than 35 programs for all ages, West Hillhurst Community Centre sees more than 237,000 guests in a year, Denton said.
"Because of our location, we are an essential part of community life," Denton said, adding that people need a place to come together.
"The biggest hurdle will be the next phase of capital funding," Denton said. "We don't make enough money from operations alone, but with that said, I don't see this building being in that [crisis] condition again."
Denton said that the total project costs by summer 2014 will be upwards of $800,000. Some of these projects are partly funded by government grants such as the Community Investment Fund, while some money comes from the Community Association fundraising efforts and private donations.
Eileen Christie and her family have been making use of this centre for the past four years. She said she has noticed a lot of improvement and that the number of facility users has grown significantly.
A series of on-going projects are slated for the next two to five years including:
· Whole roof replacement
· Replacement of arena floor
· Re-pavement of parking lot and new sidewalks
· Installation of new exterior doors to the building
· Replacement of gymnasium and squash court floors
· Upgrades to the existing dressing rooms, with one being a designated girls dressing room
· Bathroom upgrades
· New water system
· Massive improvements and code upgrades to the arena's ice plant
"It certainly feels more organized," Christie said. "I can't believe how many classes are being offered here. In the last few years it's gotten so much better."
John Wildenborg, president of West Hillhurst Community Association board of directors has been making use of the facility for more than 22 years now. He said the biggest change he has noticed in that period has been the emphasis on offering youth and family programming. Wildenborg said the centre has transformed from a mostly adult-based user group to a family-based user group.
"The centre was once just a building in the neighbourhod," Wildenborg said. "Now it is more of a community centre."
With many large capital projects that still need to be completed to ensure the future of the centre, Wildenborg said he hopes people will continue to be engaged as West Hillhurst has one of the few artificial ice surfaces in the inner city.
"Hopefully people will realize how wonderful it is to have such a facility in their backyard," Wildenborg said.
Editor's note: Donella Swan is a coach at the West Hillhurst figure skating club. The club operates out of the West Hillhurst Community Association.
- By DONELLA SWAN