The old swimming pool area in the Don Stewart Recreation Centre has appeared on residents’ radars once again, this time as a potential site for an indoor playground to help kids stay active during the winter.
June Simpson’s simple post on one of the Hay River Facebook groups about the lack of indoor activity space during the coldest months of the year launched a deluge of ideas, proposals and offers of support. Simpson herself was pleased with the resulting discussion and impressed – though not surprised – by the number of offers to help.
“I think an indoor playground would have lots of benefits,” she told The Hub. “It would be good for health and wellness for all ages, and I’m sure if we put our heads together we can come up with something.”
The idea occurred to Simpson as she was pondering putting a jungle gym set up in her basement for her grandchildren. She was researching prices online and found that a safe and fun installation was comparatively inexpensive. She turned to the Facebook group to seek out other opinions, and Coun. Vince McKay suggested the space in the recreation centre, though he acknowledged there would be some intervening steps before such a project might become reality.
“We could go around to businesses asking for donations,” said Simpson. “And maybe charge a user fee for groups or individuals.”
But already other community members have begun to expand on the idea and suggest complimentary uses.
Soccer enthusiast Daniel DaRosa thinks the old pool could be filled in and fake turf laid down to make an indoor soccer pitch, but the surface could be used for much more.
“It’s just not something that exists here right now,” he said of indoor soccer. “It would help keep the community active and it could be used for all sorts of sports.”
DaRosa said he would like to see such a space used by all ages, but especially a place for daycares to bring children to run around safe from the cold.
“Any space would be good,” he said. “It could work the same way as the pool or the arena. You would have to set up a schedule, but it wouldn’t be that hard.”
Simpson said she has had the idea since her own children were young and she spent a lot of time outside with them in the winter. Now that she has seven grandchildren, she said being with them during those months is harder and she sees many families turning to television and videogames instead of physical activity.
“It’s a lot harder to get out there with small children when it’s cold,” Simpson said. “I’m not trying to get away from parenting, but things have changed and now people are looking for easier ways. This could be of real benefit to those families and especially the kids.”
The old pool and the rooms around it are currently being used for storage. Despite several ideas in recent years for new uses for the space, including an exercise room or a new home for the Hay River Community Youth Centre, nothing further has been done.
Jordan Stackhouse, the town’s interim director of recreation, said there are multiple possibilities at this point.
“The future use of that space is something that should be discussed as tied into the upcoming renovations,” he said. “There are different ideas that could potentially be fit into the plan for the rec centre.”
— Sarah Ladik