Room for recreation

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Dale Loutit, the recreation programmer with the Town of Hay River, stands in the lobby of the swimming pool. The lobby has become the site for many recreational activities offered by the town in the absence of the rest of the rec centre.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Dale Loutit, the recreation programmer with the Town of Hay River, stands in the lobby of the swimming pool. The lobby has become the site for many recreational activities offered by the town in the absence of the rest of the rec centre.

Much of the concern over the rebuilding of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre has focused on the temporary absence of the arena and curling rink.

However, the rebuild means two other important spaces for recreational activities are gone – the Community Hall and the smaller Doug Weiterman Hall.

That has left the town’s recreation department making the best of a bad situation and finding various spaces for activities.

“The biggest one that we’re using is the pool foyer,” said Dale Loutit, the recreation programmer with the Town of Hay River.

She said permanent tables and chairs that were used by Sub on the Hub customers were removed to open up space in the lobby, and have been replaced by foldable and easily movable chairs and tables that can be used as needed.

“And the blinds for the pool, we just close them when programs are running as well so there is more privacy,” she said. “So it is just like a closed-off location. And we also have room dividers so it makes its own private area.”

So far, the lobby has held a number of activities, such as the Boot Camp exercise program, yoga, Pilates and after-school programs like Nature Club and the PHAB – physical activity, health, arts and beauty – program for girls.

“Actually, it’s been working really well,” said Loutit.

And even though it’s a lobby, there are no people walking through programs to get to the swimming pool.

“Actually, the back door is blocked off now because they’re doing construction back there,” said Loutit, noting that even when the door was usable, she would simply lock it and put a note on it advising people to go around to the front door.

She also said the use of the lobby is not interrupting the operation of the swimming pool.

Loutit recalled there was no real worry or panic in the recreation department when it realized so many recreation spaces would be unavailable while the rec centre is rebuilt.

“It was more of, ‘What can I do with the town?’ And I’m big on partnerships, so it wasn’t that scary because I knew we have a great community that we could turn to for help and use of facilities,” she said, adding it became an issue to solve in order to keep offering programs to people.

Loutit said she has been spreading activities around to different locations and facilities, some of which are provided free and some which have to be rented.

The various spaces include a conference room at the Caribou Centre for an adult fitness theory course, the Royal Canadian Legion for Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 10, Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre, and the resource room at Princess Alexandra School.

Fire Chief Ross Potter has even offered space at the Fire Hall when it’s available.

“So we do have a lot of people that have come forward,” said Loutit, noting space has also been offered at the Hay River Metis Government Council and the Whispering Willows Seniors Complex.

So far, she said there has been enough space to offer programming.

The help from the community is appreciated, she added. “People have been wonderful.”

Christine Gyapay, the head librarian at NWT Centennial Library, said the library is happy to provide space to the town when it is available and has always done so.

“With the library and the town, we partner on various programs and we use the library meeting room for some of those programs,” said Gyapay.

Mayor Brad Mapes said there’s not much the town’s recreation department can do but use available space.

“It’s a one-year thing,” said Mapes. “Everybody knew where we were sitting with the new build, and that’s kind of where we’re at.”

Loutit said one annual event – Skate with Santa – won’t happen this year because of the rebuild of the rec centre.

“Because I can’t predict the weather outside, and it could be -30 or something for the event,” she said of possibly holding it on an outdoor rink. “So I decided to not do it.”

–Paul Bickford