Marc Page’s skateboarding sessions kicked off Saturday night complete with jumps and ramps at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre arena. Introducing new programs

New director, $1 million upgrades top to-do list for new rec commission

Prince Rupert’s new recreation committee has a busy summer ahead including overseeing $1 million in upgrades at the civic centre.

Prince Rupert’s new recreation committee has a busy summer ahead including overseeing $1 million in upgrades at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.

Brent Meunier, a recreation consultant brought in by the City of Prince Rupert,  said the new committee will not only have their hands full with the upgrades but also continuing the search for a new director of recreational services.

The upgrades, which include painting the arena, replacing a structural support beam, as well as a wall and changing the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, Meunier and the commission have explored providing organized, recreational activities to low-income kids and families. It’s called the ‘Everyone Gets to Play’ program.

“It’s a program dealing with anybody that falls below the poverty line … to allow everybody in the family to have a pass-card that lets them go skating or swimming or into the gym,” said Meunier.

The pass-card would allow the holder to use the facility of his or her choice 50 times per year. Subsidies are also in the works to become available for program registrants, similar to the Jumpstart program Canadian Tire has developed that enables the company to assist in costs associated with travel,  equipment or registration for youth programs.

Along with the pass-card introduction, youth that have been hanging around the recreational complex or on the streets in the evenings aimlessly will be given an opportunity to engage in organized activities on weekend evenings from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., such as skateboarding, ball hockey, basketball and badminton in the Civic Centre gym and arena.

Joyce Charlton will also take on the role of the commission’s fundraising chair, in preparation for further upgrades next year.

“We have a situation in the pool where we don’t have a family change-room … The fitness gym upstairs in the pool is not great; it needs all-new equipment. We have a jacuzzi that is leaking and needs to be repaired,” outlined the consultant.

“We need money to fix these things but we don’t have it in our budget so what we need to do is look at how we can fundraise … Joyce will chair that [committee] and find funding sources that we can put together next year. There are grants out there. We need to have somebody looking at applying for them,” he said.

Scheduling and customer service is also being overhauled to better serve recreational clients. Meunier mentioned current staff used team-building exercises to better understand and serve Prince Rupert as a team.

“We changed the way we’re handling our maintenance operation. Our maintenance coordinator is retired and we have a new individual [in the role] … We’re looking differently at how we manage and supervise the staff and schedule them.”

Because of their recent purchase of a new Zamboni to loan to the city, the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre Arena is being painted blue, black and gold in connection with the Prince Rupert Minor Hockey Association’s colours as an act of appreciation by the city. Minor Hockey are also the most frequent users of the ice.

A third public skating session has been added for approximately an hour and 15 minutes each week this winter. While Meunier said this is a step in the right direction, he would like to see a more family-oriented skating schedule, where families with small children could skate without the more enthusiastic, experienced skaters speeding by them.

Fees and commissions are being revamped, and may increase incrementally over the next three to four years.

“It seems fees get revised here every four or five years and instead of one big jump, if we’re going to increase the fees, let’s try and spread it out,” said Meunier.

The consultant would also like to set up a reserve fund, with a percentage of recreational fees and taxes going toward maintenance and upkeep of the civic centre’s pool and arena and possibly even for development of new infrastructure down the road.

Lastly, the city has been in the interviewing stages of hiring a new director of recreational services. Fifty applicants applied from all over Canada, and Skype and in-person interviews have taken place with applicants from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and B.C.

“We will narrow that down to two or three applicants and we will likely bring those applicants in and go through a second interview process,” said Meunier.

“We’re looking for somebody who’s got experience in multi-facility management, somebody who’s got a background in recreation and has a good understanding in programming and hopefully has a little bit of knowledge regarding arena operations and pool operations.”