Prince Rupert Gymnastics is looking for a new home after the civic centre has given them until May to use their auditorium.

Gymnastics club forced to leave civic centre

The PRGA is looking for a new facility after Prince Rupert Recreation gave them a May deadline to move out of the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre

The Prince Rupert Gymnastics Association (PRGA) is looking for a new facility after Prince Rupert Recreation gave them a May deadline to move out of the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre auditorium.

The young 1.5-year-old organization was told by the recreation department that storage space the PRGA used to store equipment would be taken over by the civic centre’s own equipment.

Coun. Wade Niesh brought up the issue at a Prince Rupert city council meeting after he was approached by PRGA as a contractor to help them pick out a new facility.

“They were just going to move on to another location,” said Niesh.

“They’re paying for the storage, they’re paying for the use and they hadn’t [challenged] the civic centre [after given their notice]… they were just going to move on … I think it’s wrong to basically say ‘No, we don’t have storage for you’. This is a gymnastics club. Why do we not have storage for the gymnastics club in the civic centre? This is ridiculous, and I’m sure that I can walk through that building and give you 10 different spots we could build something.”

Currently, PRGA rents out the civic centre’s auditorium for eight hours every Sunday. Ideally, the organization would like to rent the space out three times a week, including Saturday. But the organization was told due to space constraints and other clients who also use the space, that a three-day schedule couldn’t be a reality.

“There are lots of people in the club who would do it more than once a week if it was possible,” said PRGA co-founder and organizer Jackie Touchet.

It was when PRGA started looking at purchasing a new floor for the program that they were notified of the lack of storage.

“We thought we were going to use one of these [civic centre] rooms that we currently use … We never went back to them and said ‘Are you sure you can’t find storage for us?’ said Touchet, who added they are actively looking for other locations.

The PRGA had been looking for their own permanent facility since its inception but had been unable to track one down at a price they could afford. But by no means is the organization struggling for funds. PRGA operates at full capacity with 85 kids and has a waiting list with dozens more looking to join. Every week Touchet has someone approach her looking for their child to sign up but due to the time constraints of only operating one day a week, Touchet can’t take on more kids.

“Due to the fact that we are not able to rent at any other time at the civic centre, we can’t expand our program. We asked them last year if we could rent it on Saturdays instead of Sundays – we wanted it on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday – that would be normal for a gymnastics club,” Touchet added.

In response, the recreation department sent PRGA a notice explaining that it wanted to keep Saturdays open for other bookings such as weddings, funerals, recreation coordinator-developed activities, or birthday parties, said Touchet.

Prince Rupert Recreation director Willa Thorpe recommended to the organization that they rent a mobile unit to bring their equipment up to the auditorium every Sunday.

“We’re in a situation where we actually store our own equipment outside, so we don’t even have enough storage on-site to store our own city equipment. So we’ve accommodated the gymnastics club as best we can and then moving forward our suggestion is that they actually have a mobile storage unit that they can pull up to the doors every Sunday,” said Thorpe.

“Obviously, we don’t want to kick anyone out, we want to accommodate everyone as much as we can. The reality is we can’t even store our own gear … We’re working with the club for the remainder for the season. We’ve let them know [of the storage issue] months and months in advance so they’ve got the ability to find additional storage space … It’s interesting because we’re very fortunate where we have many rooms available as rental-type spaces, so we’ve got lots of real estate when we talk about the ability to host events and run programs and other initiatives. Our challenge is that for any rental or any of our own internal programs, to have enough storage space has always been a huge, huge challenge.

“As we get things like our five-year fees and charges [policy] organized and we’re chipping away at a big laundry list of big-ticket conversations, I think definitely [we can find a solution].”

PRGA’s current session ends at the end of January and will start their mid-February-to-April session either at the civic centre or a new location that they’re currently scouting.

With more time available to operate the club and a permanent facility, Touchet believes they can go so far as hiring a full-time coach within three to five years due to the demand of the program.

“We’re in a Catch-22. We need a member of the community to say ‘Hey, I have a warehouse and you’re a great thing for the community. Let me rent it to you for $2,000 a month because we can afford that …  We want to apply for these community legacy grants, but we can’t apply for it because we don’t have anywhere to use it right now. We were going to do another coaching course but there’s no point in doing [it] if we can’t run any more classes,” she said.

This past week, Touchet and the PRGA board examined two more facilities and is in the process of ruling them in or out and are planning on attending this month’s recreation commission meeting at the invite of city council.