It was a cause for celebration Wednesday night at the Glacier in Mount Pearl as the city’s brightest youth were dressed to impress to take in the Focus on Youth Awards gala.
Nearly four years after the building first opened to the public, the Mount Pearl Summit Centre will soon be fully accessible.
The Celtics under-14 boys team capped off a big year with a second place finish at the inaugural Junior NBA World Regional Qualifiers this year.
A small piece of the Mount Pearl cultural community was highlighted on the weekend of May 5 and May 6 as part of the provincial Arts and Letters competition.
As a teenager, Stephen Thistle passed the spot that is now Spruce Avenue Park area every day that he would bike into Mount Pearl to pick berries or swim during the summer.
While they came so close to getting it done in Halifax, the Mount Pearl Blades fell just short of winning the top prize in Atlantic Junior B hockey. However, the Blades still have their heads held high after battling all the way to the final game in the Atlantic tournament.
It’s been eight years since Newfoundland hosted the Challenge Cup senior men’s national soccer tournament and Tyler Forsey is hoping the Mount Pearl First Choice Haircutters squad will be part of that action when it begins in October.
But to get a chance to compete for the national title, Forsey and his fellow Haircutters will have to trim the three other Newfoundland teams vying for the provincial Challenge Cup title in St. Lawrence this weekend.
Holy Cross Kirby Group is holding first place in the league standings going into the provincial championship with Mount Pearl close behind. The St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians secured third place, while the Feildians occupy fourth spot. As host for the national tourney, Newfoundland will get to place two teams in the national event, the winner of this weekend’s provincial championship and the runnerup.
"We are confident, but we’re not over confident," says Forsey, who was the Haircutters’ leading scorer this past season. "We respect the other teams, but we don’t fear them."
Forsey admits "The favourite is whoever the defending champion is, so that would be Holy Cross in this case." But, he adds, "You can’t take the throne until you dethrone somebody else."
That’s exactly what Forsey is hoping for this weekend, which would be a nice cap to a effortful season of play by the Mount Pearl squad.
The Mount Pearl First Choice Haircutters struggled at the start of the season, suffering four losses and managing three tied games. But they turned it around with a 14 game winning streak that only ended with the final game of the season, against Holy Cross, who edged the Haircutters 1-0.
"After a bit of a shaky start we strung it together," says Forsey. "It took all 23 guys in the room to sort that out. Everybody bonded together. A lot of people outside the dressing room had quit on us in the early stages, but we never."
Forsey said the players and coaching staff are really happy to be going into this weekend’s play as one of the top two teams. As the first and second place teams, Holy Cross and Mount Pearl play in the first game on Friday, September 2 with the winner earning a berth into the final game Sunday. The loser of the opening match gets to play the winner of the game between Feildians and St. Lawrence on Saturday for a second chance to make the final.
"Our team is sitting pretty good for the final weekend, and it would be a tough game with any team that you play," Forsey says. "We’re playing on natural grass (too) so I think that it’ll be an added bit of spice to it, which will be nice."
Forsey, who grew up in Mount Pearl and played ball with the minor association here until he was 18, says he is excited to be back this season. "I just wanted to return here and wear the black and yellow," he says. "If there is one place you would want to win a championship, it’s at home."
After five years playing in other leagues, principally at the varsity level, Forsey, now 23, brings some depth of experience to the team. He is happy with the team’s coaching moves and positive changes. Forsey gives a lot of credit for the team’s success to his coach and teammate, Andrew Murphy. He moved Forsey from centre striker to left midfield this season. The new position was "kind of what the team needed," Forsey allows. "So I went there no questions asked, and I just try to do the job that coach Murphy set for me to do."
Forsey’s intentions are to give it 100 per cent and do the best he can to help the team, whether it’s setting up opportunities for teammates or scoring goals himself.
With guidance from the seasoned veterans and the fiery enthusiasm of the young players, Forsey expects this coming weekend to turn out well for Mount Pearl.
"Through all the trials and tribulations, we gave ourselves the right opportunity to get where we are right now," Forsey says. "We took care of business and dealt with what we were faced with up until this point. Now there’s one last mountain to climb, but it’s the biggest one of the year. So we’ve got to get our hiking boots on and get to the top, or our soccer cleats in this case."
It looks like Mayor Randy Simms’ hope of seeing a time capsule buried in a vault in the centre of a compass rose at St. David’s Field as part of a new park honouring the city’s veterans won’t be achieved after all.
"Tell me I’m wrong," said Simms, reviewing a photograph of the construction that was tabled during last week’s public council meeting. The picture showed no evidence of a vault in the middle of the giant round concrete platform that will eventually house bubble jets as part of a water fountain that will serve as a centre piece of the park.
"We were going to put a time capsule there in the heart of that compass rose," the mayor noted. "If we’re not going to do it, I guess that’s fine, but I understood we were."
"I remember the discussion on that," said councillor John Walsh.
"I remember the discussion (too), but I don’t think there was anything ‘concrete’ on it," quipped councillor Paula Tessier, twisting the mayor’s tail.
"Let’s talk about it in committee," suggested councillor Dave Aker.
"Wouldn’t it be neat to get the kids and some people to put some stuff together to put in a time capsule for the City, and ask our local groups to add something to it?" said Simms. "In 30 years or 40 years somebody will open it."
Simms allowed that maybe he leapt to the conclusion there had been an agreement to include the vault and time capsule and perhaps there was no such consensus at all. "So are we going to make a decision or not?" he persisted.
"Maybe we can talk about it later," said councillor Walsh.
"Oh oh. I’m not going to get my time capsule, am I? Simms said.
"You might be in it yet," joked Tessier.
The Mount Pearl Sport Alliance's Hall of Fame grew by four more members last month as two "builders" and two athletes were added during a banquet which also honoured the City's best athletes from 2015.
Joining the Hall of Fame were long time soccer referee, coach, tournament convenor and executive member Dave Legrow; long serving baseball, hockey and soccer coach Dave Randell; soccer, hockey, basketball, swimming and volleyball start Jennifer Andrews; and standout Mount Pearl Blades goaltender Wince Taylor, who also backstopped provincial and senior hockey teams.
The event drew a packed gymnasium for a banquet style presentation at the Reid Community Centre where the warm feeling inside was a strong contrast to the weather outside that was whipped with snow, rain and high winds.
LeGrow was deeply touched by the induction. He started volunteering with the Mount Pearl Soccer association in 1994. Along with coaching, refereeing and helping to convene major tournaments, he also served in key executive roles, including treasurer and secretary and was part of a task group that helped obtain new field lighting, a new club house and new turf. LeGrow is a former Executive of the Year with the soccer association, a member of its Hall of Fame, and has been presented with a lifetime achievement award by Mount Pearl Men's Slo-Pitch Softball.
In accepting the latest honour, LeGrow joked that he knew he wasn't being inducted for his playing ability. "But it's still an honour," he said.
"I received through soccer a lot of rewards," he added. "There is a difference between rewards and awards - one is more tangible than the other... I have a lot of good memories ... My induction here tonight is another memory that I will remember for a lot of years to come."
Randell, who began coaching in the mid-1980s when his children started playing sports, was also grateful for the recognition. Randell spent two decades coaching in various sports in Mount Pearl, helping four baseball and hockey teams to provincial championships and serving in a number of top executive capacities, including as treasurer for major soccer tournaments hosted in the City. Randell is also a former treasurer of the Sport Alliance, the 2000 provincial Summer Games and the Frosty Festival.
Randell said no one achieves anything in sport on his or her own and he was fortunate to work with "some amazing groups of individuals, highly capable and committed board members and executives, dedicated officials, and top level volunteers… We had the confidence that we could take on pretty much anything and we very often did. Along with the athletes, these people made my involvement a pure pleasure."
The same is true of the many sponsors who have contributed to the sporting community over the years, Randell noted.
"Our City itself has taken sports seriously since day one," Randell pointed out. "It's been a lot of give and take and some raised voices at times, but the City and its staff have always come through and the youth of Mount Pearl are the beneficiaries of that cooperation."
Randell saved his "most important" thanks for his wife Marg and their sons Mike, Mark and Ryan "for their patience, support and understanding over the years."
The next two Hall of Fame inductees were enrolled in the athlete category. Jennifer Andrews excelled in a number of sports, including basketball, swimming, hockey, softball and volleyball and was a three time Athlete of the Year during her school days.
But induction ceremony emcee Trevor Murphy said her real passion was soccer, a sport in which she had great success from an early age. “She was a key player with Mount Pearl’s provincial championship teams every year from the Under 12 division in 1987 right up to senior ladies,” he noted. “During her time as a minor player, she represented the province at 10 national championships and the 1993 Canada Games.”
Andrews also played five years with the Acadian University varsity team where she was a First Team All Canadian and in 1995 was named Mount Pearl’s Female Athlete of the Year.
In accepting her induction, Andrews congratulated the other people getting the same honour. She also thanked her parents. “Without them I would definitely not be here today being inducted,” she said, citing their love and support, and unselfishness when it came to driving her to practices and games and meeting the costs of participating in sports.
Andrews also thanked the many others who support amateur sport in Mount Pearl and called attention to the special relationships that grow from it. “My best friends have come from playing sports in this community,” Andrews said.
Fellow athlete inductee Wince Taylor also cited the wonderful friendships and experiences that come from participating in sports.
Though he was regarded as a talented ball hockey and baseball player, and even a ‘Top Scorer’ one year in basketball, Taylor is best known for his prowess guarding the net in ice hockey.
During his minor hockey days, Taylor was named Top Goaltender and MVP in Pee Wee, bantam and midget and again in junior play. He played with a Select Team which hosted a touring Russian midget squad, served as a pick up net-minder for the Brother Rice Celtics in their hunt for the Atlantic Junior B championship in 1982, played a year later on the Canada Games team and later served between the pipes for the Herder Trophy winning Stephenville Jets, one of five senior hockey teams that tapped him for duty. Taylor was also named top goalie four of the six years he played in provincial ball hockey tournaments, while also earning medals and all star selections in several national ball hockey championships.
Taylor said he was honoured to be on the same induction list as LeGrow, Randell and Andrews.
“All I wanted to do was play sports, from a very early age,” he said. “My parents encouraged me every step of the way… Sport has played a major role in my life from a very early age.”
Taylor noted that athletes often lose far more contests than they win, but sport has given him much to be thankful for. “Sport has helped me pay for my education,” he said. “Sport has provided me the opportunity to meet people and creat sustaining friendships for many years… Sport has provided me the opportunity to travel this province and this country and beyond. And sport has provided me the opportunity to learn how to conduct myself in victory, but more importantly, in picking myself up in defeat.”
Taylor said there are far too many people to name to thank them all individually. But he singled out his mom, who kept a full time job and raised three children, and his wife Cindy and their children, for their special support.
“I feel like I am returning full circle and again joining a team,” Taylor said, referring to the honour of being inducted with his fellow nominees. “Looking at the names in the Hall of Fame, I know many of them and witnessed their achievements. I also had the privilege of competing against them and being their teammates over the years. I look forward to being teammates once again.”
Mayor Randy Simms sketched out challenges and opportunities on Tuesday during his annual 'Outlook' on the year ahead to members of the Mount Pearl - Paradise Chamber of Commerce.
In an upbeat but frank State of the Union type presentation, the Mount Pearl mayor outlined steps the City is taking to foster business growth.
Last year was a good year, Simms said. "What I have to say about 2016 might be a little bit different. The current state of affairs, both in Canada and in Newfoundland, will have an impact on what happens in the local area and everything you hear about in the news every day is something that we also deal with at the local level. We have some challenges going into 2016; some of them existed before now, some of them are relatively new to us, but as a result it kind of changed the way we go about doing our business in this community."
Among he challenges, Simms pointed out, is an aging demographic. Newfoundland, Mount Pearl included, is not only older, per capita wise, than any other province, it is also "aging in place faster," said Simms. "That's a challenge provincially and believe it or not it's also a challenge at the municipal level. It means that our service mix probably has to change as times go by."
The low Canadian dollar is also having an impact, Simms said, because much of the economic activity in Mount Pearl is tied to supplying and servicing the oil industry. And low oil prices are also affecting the local economy.
"We're already having higher vacancy rates than we're used to having," said the mayor, noting the vacancy rate now stands at 13.5 per cent. "It looks like it's probably going to go a little higher."
All these factors influenced the City's budget preparations for this year, Simms explained. "We decided that what we should do is adopt a strategy of renewal - let's take the money that we have and spend it on the things we've (already) got as opposed to 'Let's try to expand, let's build something new.'”
At just over $49.5 million, the City's budget is the highest it’s ever been, Simms said.
Some 13.3 million this year will go towards capital improvements, Simms said, including upgrades to "one of the busiest streets in all of Atlantic Canada," Commonwealth Avenue.
Only a portion of it will see new pavement this year though. "We're kind of doing it in sections as we go along," he said. "So there's going to be some traffic interruption this year on Commonwealth Avenue, but hey, if you want to clean up, the first thing you've got to do is make a mess."
Sunrise Avenue, a major collector street that leads onto Commonwealth, will also see work.
"Probably the biggest thing we're going to do this year from the point of view of traffic is the intersection of Blackmarsh Road and Topsail Road," Simms added. "The opening the Team Gushue Highway, we believe, is going to lead to an increase in traffic coming into the city off Blackmarsh Road… We recognize that if there is going to be an increased traffic load, we're going to exacerbate a problem that already exists at that intersection... We'd love to put in one of those traffic circles like there is in Paradise, but there's not enough land there to do it for a four lane highway."
Instead, the City is going to install traffic lights there.
In other capital developments, the $4.5 million Campia Gymnastics facility will be finished this year. The City is covering the construction cost and will lease it to Campia, which has some 900 young people from all over the region as members, Simms said.
“Mount Pearl's strategic plan says that from the point of view of tourism as an economic development driver, sport is where we're going to build it," Simms said. "So we can't just build it for Mount Pearl. If we're going to be a sport centre, we've got to build it for the region, we've got to build it for the province. This will be the newest, most modern competitive gymnastics centre anywhere in Atlantic Canada."
Another major investment this year is taking place at St. David's Field, said Simms, where some $1.2 million is being spent redeveloping it into "a passive leisure park" that will include a new cenotaph for the Royal Canadian Legion.
Admiralty House Annex, which got some $600,000 in work last year, will get an additional $350,000 in upgrades this year. "We want to get the Annex open, get it being used, both by our arts community and by the museum itself to make that museum a little more lively, a little more active, to give it a little more gravitas in the historical community and hopefully the tourism community as well," Simms said.
Donovans Business Park, meanwhile, is in for a $3 million face lift this year. "Donovans remains the largest business park in the province," Simms said. "Now it's one of the older ones."
It also has more competition, he noted, from a new industrial park in Paradise, two in St. John's, and one that the Town of Conception Bay South is developing.
"We don't want to be the business park that is like the house that needs painting or new shingles, so we're investing in the park every year for the next five years to see to it that we maintain our status as modern, new, and aggressively planned with all the right business mixes, because it generates income for our city," Simms said. "And it's important that all of these business people here, who actually pay all of these taxes, see a little bit of it flow back."
One prime piece of real estate that will open up for future municipal development is the old Smallwood Arena. Simms said the storied old hockey rink will be torn down this year. "It has outlived its life, it has asbestos and things in it, we're not even allowed in it anymore without a Hazmat suit," he said. "So it's going to be demolished this year and will become an empty lot."
But it probably won't be empty for long. Simms said an architectural firm has been hired to look at what might be put back there. “I believe in 2017, 2018 we're going to be able to put back a new building," he added. "What we really need to talk about is what kind of recreational mix should it be. I champion the idea of having a little theatre there, others on council have said we need a big place for our seniors - we have the largest seniors club in the province."
Simms said other possible uses include an indoor tennis court or an indoor soccer field.
“That's going to be a challenge this year, trying to determine what we're going to do with that empty lot," said the mayor. Something could happen even sooner, he suggested, if new federal infrastructure money starts flowing to the province this year.
Other development opportunities lie between Topsail Road and Kenmount Road above the 190 contour, Simms said. A comprehensive development plan is being compiled to govern how the area will be developed.
Several years ago, the province and City of St. John's lifted their restrictions on building more than 190 metres above sea level. The restriction had been in place for years because of the extra costs and infrastructure required to pump water that high.
"Now you can build to the 220 contour," said Simms. "That has opened up a lot of opportunity in the City of Mount Pearl."
Some 59 acres of such land on the north side of Mount Pearl, “the bulk of it fronting onto Kenmount Road,” will be available for development, Simms said.
The mayor is also encouraging council to explore the possibility of using public-private partnerships to lower the cost of municipal government.
"If there are services that can be provided by somebody else more effectively or more efficiently and maybe even cheaper, why not do it?" Simms asked. "We're going to do a little exploration of that because frankly, the innovation and expertise of the private sector has not been used as effectively in our jurisdiction, at all government levels, as it should be and it's time that we opened that door.
“So while we face what we call a fiscal challenge or a crisis or a cliff or whatever terminology you want to use, nobody should forget that it also represents an unbelievable opportunity, because it opens the door to doing all things differently. And we wouldn't do that if the oil money was flowing and everybody was happy and we could spend what we want; everything would stay the same forever. So while this is going to be unbelievably challenging for everyone, there's also going to be tremendous opportunity in it for us, particularly in places like Paradise and Mount Pearl. I think we're just big enough that we can be of interest enough to the private sector to say, 'Yes, we can do some work for you.' The question is how?”