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Prince Rupert Gymnastics Association receives $93,000 grant

We’re going to have the best gymnastics facility — Touchet

The Prince Rupert Gymnastics Association is turning cartwheels after receiving a $93,236 provincial grant to improve their programming, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice announced on Jan. 17.

The money, stemming from a capital grant by the Community Gaming Grants program, will allow the gymnastics association to purchase enhanced equipment, Rice said.

“It’s huge,” Erin Hipkiss, the gymnastics head coach, said. “Rupert needed something indoors and [we] definitely needed a gymnastics facility because a gymnastics facility really brings a community together.”

Last month, the association moved into a new location, from their old facilities at the Museum of British Columbia to larger space in a warehouse near Rushbrook Floats, which they have spent the last year renovating.

The injection of funds will help the city leapfrog ahead of the game in terms of available sport resources in the region.

At their previous gym, the association didn’t have enough space to host everything they can now. Before moving into the new location, their gymnasts travelled once a week to Terrace to fully train and also utilized two other spaces in town, including at the Pentecostal church, in order to have access to the floor space they needed, Hipkiss said.

Currently, the new facility is the only one in the Northwest which can house every gymnastics event without having to take down and rearrange equipment, she said.

“We’re going to have the best gymnastics facility,” Jackie Touchet, president of the Prince Rupert Gymnastics Association, said.

With this new resource, athletes who reach higher levels of competition and wish to pursue the sport further won’t have to leave the community in order to train, Hipkiss said.

Some of the new equipment is state-of-the-art Olympic-level gear and safety equipment.

“We are going to have one of the first-ever Air Pits in a gymnastic facility,” Touchet said.

Air Pits are a modern piece of safety equipment, which is a specialized air-filled cushion used while practicing skills during training drills. The custom-made piece will replace the out-dated foam cushioning, which is less effective and was found to be less sanitary, Touchet said.

Their new facility has 11,000 square feet of space compared to 3,500 at their old location. The fresh space includes upgraded plumping, washrooms, and classrooms all built in the past year. This was helped in part by another $87,000 Community Gaming Grant, in 2021, and with money and donations made by the community totalling $350,000.

“As they settle into their beautiful new facility, this new equipment will allow the association to expand their programs to serve more people of all ages and abilities,” she said.

Other new goods includes specialized equipment to expand the male gymnastics program, bars and other apparatuses to support accessibility for people of varying abilities.

“This is a multi-use group facility. It’s not just gymnastics,” Hipkiss said.

For the next phase of the project, the association plans to finish installing yet-to-arrive equipment and collaborate with other athletic groups in the city including the hockey academy, gyms and martial arts groups in the new space.

The Community Gaming Grant program provides $140 million annually to not-for-profit organizations throughout B.C. to support programs and services to meet the needs of their communities.

READ MORE: Gymnastics Association benefits from Community Gaming Grant

READ MORE: Lack of suitable sports facilities affect numerous Prince Rupert organizations

 Norman Galimski | Journalist 
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