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This article was published 24/11/2011 (3586 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
IT'S the final piece of the puzzle in the first phase of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy's $200-million plan to make over one of North America's largest urban green spaces.
The Qualico Family Centre opened its doors Thursday morning to show off the Assiniboine Park's newest building since an addition to the conservatory in the 1960s.
"This is going to be the heart of the park, the centre of activity," said Hartley Richardson, chairman of the APC, shortly after taking part in the centre's official ribbon cutting.
"It's really a community project, it's a community facility, and this park is open to everyone in our community."
Overlooking the recently revamped duck pond, park visitors can now put their feet up while cosying up in front of a stately stone fireplace, hot chocolate in hand. Natural light fills the centre, where the new park café will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. A menu of breakfasts, gourmet grilled cheeses and poutine was created with family-friendly budgets in mind.
Away from the official ribbon cutting, a group of children was already busy breaking in the Acorn Activity Room, the centre's playroom, filled with large beanbag chairs and craft stations. Educational programs and camps will use the space year-round.
"This was a surprise to me this morning," said Allyson Magierowicz, who hadn't planned on visiting the brand-new facilities. "I'm actually from Kenora. I'm just visiting with the grandkids."
As her two grandchildren spun in a swanky leather chair in the centre's foyer, Magierowicz took in her surroundings.
"It's very lovely, it's beautiful. And we enjoyed the session this morning with the children."
The facility can be booked for birthday parties, weddings and business functions, with dozens of events already slated for 2012.
From top to bottom, the $6-million building was designed and constructed with as many sustainability features that could possibly be fit in and on the 10,000-square-foot structure. The 100 per cent green roof will be covered in vegetation. The massive wood slats that make up the lofty ceiling and millwork in the building are taken from reclaimed wood from diseased elm trees.
There is not a spot in the building where one is farther than seven metres from a window. The building's V-shaped footprint allows for maximum natural light to spill into the space through floor-to-ceiling windows. It also gives the feeling of being nestled in the trees, as the middle of the V and entire south side of the structure look onto wooded areas. Those trees will also help to keep the building cool in the summer by acting as a natural shade, and in the winter, the south exposure allows for maximum solar heat absorption.
"The entire public comes to Assiniboine Park for different events," said Mayor Sam Katz. "And with all these new amenities, there's so much now to do, no matter what you do."
Katz said the huge changes in the park would be impossible without the APC staff and board.
"They're doing a marvellous job of raising money from the corporate community," said Katz.