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Residents hope for new building at Hughes site

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Elmwood resident John King is shown with a blue rock, one of the last remaining pieces of the old Kelvin Community Centre.

PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON Enlarge Image

Elmwood resident John King is shown with a blue rock, one of the last remaining pieces of the old Kelvin Community Centre. Photo Store

There is still one remnant of the old Kelvin Community Centre at the newly-reopened Clara Hughes Recreation Park.

A blue rock sits just south of the playground, which local resident John King, who fought the closure of Kelvin and has been involved in the site’s redevelopment, welcomes.

"That is a symbol of the club for years and years and years," King said, noting the rock has been around for about 25 years, and represented the colours of the Kelvin Sharks sports teams. "An old part of Kelvin is still here, so that’s great."

After fighting the City of Winnipeg’s plans to rezone and sell the site, the rock could also represent the community’s willingness to bare its teeth for another battle that is brewing — to put a brand-new building on the site.

The Clara Hughes site, located on Henderson Highway between Chalmers Avenue and Martin Avenue West, officially opened with a ribbon-cutting on Oct. 15 with its namesake in attendance. The park has operated as a satellite of Bronx Park Community Centre since 2011.

During the community consultation process after city and provincial funding was announced in 2011, King said getting a new building was front and centre.

"Throughout all the consultations, the building came up as an important need in the community," King said. "There are meetings going on, and this was No. 1 — to get it started and get everything accepted to let them know that the Elmwood people were sincere in what they wanted."

Hughes, a six-time Olympic medallist in speed-skating and cycling, said while the redevelopment of the park is a "fantastic start" she feels having a new building would do a lot for youth in the neighbourhood, and she said she’ll support the community in any way she can.

"I’d love to see the community centre rebuilt," Hughes said. "That is a place where I went to dances and art programs and so many different things. This space is about so much more than just physical recreation. It’s about having a creative outlet and a place for kids to go to."

Coun. Thomas Steen (Elmwood-East Kildonan) said there are currently no plans for a new building, as an existing building on the site will be renovated beginning next spring. He said only a windfall into the civic coffers will change that plan.

"(Money) is so tight everywhere right now. Everything is planned for," Steen said. "It’s hard to change the plan from the original plan."

MLA Jim Maloway (Elmwood) said every new development with the site has been a fight, including to get to the current level of renovations, and battling for a new building will be just one more.

"If you’d asked me whether this could happen, I’d have said ‘Absolutely not,’" Maloway said, noting there were several organizers, at the political and community centre level, who needed to agree about funding the site. "Option A is just to do some internal renovations inside that, whatever you want to call that (the building). Option B (the current plan) is to put a canteen in there and open up one of the walls, with skylights.

"(Option) C is a whole new building."

MP Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona) was glad to see the community’s efforts rewarded with the site, and added if the city and province get a plan for a new building into motion, he’ll do what he can to support the project.

"If it’s a priority for the local councillor and it’s a priority for the Province of Manitoba, I’ll work side by side with them to see what we (can) do to help out and bring the dream to completion," Toet said.

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