When the players take to the court at the All-Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert next week there will be one less thing to worry about in the Russell Gamble Gymnasium.
The bleachers installed at each end of the court two years ago have been removed after Civic Centre staff heard safety concerns from ANBT Chair Peter Haugan.
“Players were hitting the bleachers. We always had chairs there and if they hit the chairs, the chairs would just fly. The bleachers don’t give. We just about had a tragedy last year when a kid from Ahousaht slid over the bleachers and hit the bench. He was down for a bit. I thought he’d broken his shoulder, but he got up and finished the game,” said Haugan.
City Manager Gordon Howie told City Council last week there had been discussion with the ANBT committee about the bleachers and safety concerns almost from the moment the gym was overhauled with a complete new set of bleachers two years ago.
“We were never consulted when they were drawing up the plans, but we are grateful because if it wasn’t for the Recreation Department the new bleachers wouldn’t have gone in,” Haugan said.
For the Recreation Department, the dilemma in removing the bleachers was being able to honour the commitment made by Northern Savings Credit Union who had sponsored those particular bleachers om the first place. The department wanted to make sure NSCU continued to receive the recognition they deserved.
“Paulette Woodrow of NSCU was pleased that we would keep the NSCU signs where they were and that we would move the seat plaques to seats in the side bleachers that hadn’t been sponsored,” Howie said.
Haugan said his thanks goes out to NSCU for having the safety issue removed.
“When they saw what we were talking about they didn’t have a problem with it. The credit union sign is at the far end behind the bleachers and isn’t in the way.”
And now that the chairs will be back in place on the floor – 54 at one end and 44 at the other – the seating capacity will be increased by almost 20.
“We’d actually lost a few seats because of the bleachers,” Haugan explained.
“In total there are about 1200 seats down below and another 300 up top.”
Chuckling he added that the fans are also happy to see the bleachers disappear.
“People moved out, but now that they know there will be chairs there again, they’re moving back,” he said.