Clara Hughes remembers officiating ringette at Kelvin Community Centre and helping to get local youth heading toward the right goal.
"I was refereeing them and I remember picking them up and pointing them in the right direction," Hughes recalled. "What I remember is ‘somebody did this for me.’ At so many levels of development and sport, this is just a place to learn, and to grow and to be a kid."
Now, she hopes the site bearing her name will be able to do the same once again. The six-time Olympic medallist in cycling and speed-skating was in attendance at the grand opening of the park named after her on Oct. 15. The park was redeveloped after the Kelvin Community Centre, which previously occupied the site, was closed in 2007.
"This is amazing — coming back to my community, to Elmwood, and seeing so many improvements with the new bridge, the pedestrian walkway, and finally, the grand opening of this park, just seeing the kids in the bowl with their skateboards reminds me of me," said Hughes, 41. "It shaped my life as a young person, because it gave me an athletic background to fall into when I discovered the Olympics."
Hughes said her parents didn’t drive when she was growing up, so having a recreation centre nearby was important in those days.
The $758,500 redevelopment project saw $600,000 come from the City of Winnipeg and Government of Manitoba through Phase 1 of the Building Communities Initiative (BCI) II, while the city provided an additional $100,000. The federal government contributed $58,500 through the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund.
Bronx Park C.C. buildings and grounds convenor Robert Fabbri said while the centre is able to easily share staff between the two sites, the two sites are too far apart to share equipment. He added local residents have been stepping up to help with the site, a trend he expects will continue.
"The more people see it’s becoming revitalized, there seems to be more interest," Fabbri said. "(On) the other side of it, too, there are younger families moving into the area, so you’re going to see that volunteer base start to come forward again."
Hughes, who also has a park in the North End named after her, said while she doesn’t seek attention like this, to be forever connected with the site was a driving factor in accepting the recognition.
"I was so honoured that they considered me, how could I refuse?" Hughes said. "I wanted to show that you could come from this area and do some pretty big things.
"I hope that I’m just the lead of what these kids can do, and they’ll blow anything I ever did out of the water."
Hughes is no stranger to being a positive role model. She has been open about her battle with depression, and will embark on a 12,000-km bike ride across Canada next spring where she will work to break the stigma of mental illness while supporting mental-health research. She will make over 200 stops in communities across the country as part of the approximately 100-day trip.