Lack of gymnasium and sporting facility infrastructure in Prince Rupert is affecting the operations of many clubs and organizations in the city. The problems are not just limited to finding space. The lack of infrastructure is affecting membership and coaching recruitment, which has some club organizers calling for a multi-use complex.
While COVID-19 has put a lot of activities on sick leave during the pandemic, it is not accountable for the lack of suitable sport facility accommodations available in the city, Wade Wilkins chief instructor of Prince Rupert Karate Club, said.
Until March 2020, just as the coronavirus immobilized many sports, the karate club met three times a week. In April it received notice to vacate the space it had used for just less than 20 years in the Fishermans Hall. This has left the dojo in need of appropriate space with storage and preferably wooden floors.
The Karate Club is not the only organization looking for space, Wilkins said. There are others in the same boat and it is becoming a more common story in Prince Rupert. Long time sporting organizations are being asked to vacate to allow for future development of premises, but have nowhere to go.
Wilkins isn’t the only club instructor speaking up for the need of available space to be able to continue extra-curricular activities for students and for adults to carry on with sports and fitness.
“It is definitely the time to make some noise and make your voice heard as to what you need,” Erin Hipkiss head coach at the Prince Rupert Gymnastics club, said.
The lack of suitable gym space prompted her 2017 decision to turn down the employment offer of a coaching position with the club and swayed her not to move to Prince Rupert.
“I originally didn’t jump on it. It’s because being a coach that is trying to pursue that maybe elite level of training, you are only as good as the facility is going to let you be,” she said.
Hipkiss explained that as a coach she wants to be the best she can be and present that to her athletes. Lack of facilities can hold back trainers and athletes to prevent them from reaching their best performance or from joining a club at all.
“I know first-hand from being an athlete … when I got to a certain level, my facility wasn’t able to help, so I ended up travelling twice a week,” Hipkiss said.
Hipkiss said the gymnastics club has outgrown its current location, so she travels with gymnasts to use facilities in Terrace each week, but that is only an interim solution to the club’s space problems which needs high ceilings and room for equipment.
The promise of larger and more suitable facilities eventually changed the decision for Hipkiss, who moved to Prince Rupert in 2019. Soon after arriving the gymnastics association secured the old Canfisco building to convert to usable gymnasium space.
Cory Hoff, vice president of Eagle Eye Archery believes the city is in dire need of a multi-use club facility that can be utilized by various sports and activities. He suggested numerous organizations like Cubs, Beavers, pickleball, climbing, cadets, and seniors sports like indoor bowling and more, could all find the benefit in a multi-use facility.
The archery club has been housed in the current location for a little more than 15 years and uses the space twice a week and for special event shoots. Similar to the Karate Club, the archers also have been asked to vacate their space.
“Because we only utilize this facility for about eight or so months of the year, to get into a multi-use facility that’s used by other clubs would be ideal,” Hoff said. “If there was a place in this community … someplace in this community where all of those groups could utilize space, it would be ideal.”
Hoff said the archery club used to use the civic complex for their weekly activities, but scheduling issues and storage became problematic prompting the club to find its own location, a sentiment that was echoed by Wilkins about the karate club when they used the center.
“I think there are all kinds of different sports that would need a home,” Wilkins said.
“There just is nothing in town. There are very few facilities in town. I would love to see a new facility built … especially if you have a couple of different (club) areas.”
Access to the facilities after hours and on weekends is also a consideration when searching for space, both Wilkins and Hipkiss said. The flexibility to come and go, run classes and train when needed is a benefit and is not always available at some facilities.
Non-profit clubs, like the karate club and the archery club, are cognizant of rent and utility costs in any space due to limited available funds.
Gymnastics coach, Hopkiss said it would be absolutely great to bring more people to the table and open up discussions around club and sport space.
“That’s kind of my dream – is to build a multi-user group facility and to have multiple sports being able to run,” she said.
When the gymnastics association moves to the new facilities in the fall, there will be a lot of extra square footage available, said Hipkiss. Under the 25-year lease for the old Canfisco property the club has all 20,000 sq. ft. and of that just 12,000 sq. ft. is needed for the gymnastics club, which is hoping to start there in September. They are willing to offer left over space to others.
“I’ve reached out to a couple of different user groups in the community … so I’ve opened up the conversation to other user groups to kind of jump in with us and somehow try to create a multi-user group for the city of Prince Rupert,” Hopkiss said.
Any club or sport organization interested in the idea of a multi-use facility is more than welcome to contact Hipkiss at firstname.lastname@example.org.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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