Mount Pearl has taken another leap towards completing its status as the athletics and recreation capital of Newfoundland with a $4.5 million gymnastics centre announced for 21 Old Placentia Road.
The centre, which will open next year, will be owned and run by non-profit Campia Gymnastics.
Municipal Affairs Minister Keith Hutchings was on hand for the announcement, which includes a $1.9 million contribution from provincial and City of Mount Pearl taxpayers. The lion's share of the financing is being backed by Campia.
"The facility will benefit the children and families of this city, and certainly the region, for many years to come," Hutchings said. "Once constructed, the facility will boast 10,000 square feet of floor space, tumbling and trampoline pits - which sound like a lot of fun - viewing areas and (an additional 2,000 square metres of) office space."
Hutchings said Mount Pearl has always been known as a family friendly community and the facility will help maintain that "tremendous" image.
“Recreation infrastructure is one of the most critical investments the government can make,” Hutchings said. "The ability of our young people, adults, and seniors to be physically active, to socialize, to gather with members of your community, is what makes are our communities strong and places that people are proud to call home.”
Mayor Randy Simms was equally effusive. "This is truly a great day for the City of Mount Pearl as we once again expand on our ever increasing role as a community committed to sports and recreation," he said.
Simms underlined the regional aspect of the facility. "It will allow for regional and provincial competitions and will no doubt become the place to participate in top quality gymnastics competitions and it will foster growth within the sport, not only in Mount Pearl but all across the Northeast Avalon," he added.
Simms said the City wanted to see the facility come to fruition because it fits so well with Mount Pearl's tourism and recreation strategy.
"The facility will stimulate community and business growth as thousands of participants will come to our city, to our region and to our province to engage in sporting events in this state of the art building," Simms said. "The centre is also going to be an investment in our health and our wellness... It is being built for our children, it is being built for our youth. I understand there may even be a program or two for some old guys like me to do some stretching."
Mount Pearl North MHA and Deputy Premier Steve Kent, whom Hutchings credited with putting a lot of work into the project, recalled his first paying job, that was not just a summer job, was as a gymnastics coach first with the City and then Campia.
"I've got to say I feel a tremendous sense of pride today because this is a project that a lot of people having been working on for a long, long time, myself included," Kent said. "This is a personal passion of mine, I have to admit."
Kent noted his parents participate in Campia's programs as does one of his sons. "I look forward going with them to the brand new facility that we'll open together in the months ahead," he said.
Kent thanked council and City staff for working with the province in striking an agreement, as well as Campia's building committee.
"A facility such as this helps create an environment that is attractive to families in our community," Kent said. "As previous speakers have mentioned, soon enough there will be 10,000 square feet of space... But more importantly, there will be 10,000 square feet of young people engaged in physical activity. As Minister responsible for Health, I take a tremendous sense of pride in knowing that is the case."
Kent said it will be nice to have a facility that meets the needs of a rapidly growing program. "I know the facility you are in is woefully inadequate," he said. "You've really maximized the use of that space for a long time. I remember the days when we had to unroll and roll up floor mats to run sessions at the Reid Centre... The sport has come a long, long way. Campia is bigger and healthier and stronger than it has ever been and that's a really good thing."
Campia president Melanie Hollett, who got involved with the group when her daughter joined gymnastics eight years ago at the age of five, apologized in advance in case she got emotional during her remarks.
"I can't believe we're here in this room today," Hollett said. "I was very involved in sports growing up in Mount Pearl as a child, participating as a competitive figure skater and as a soccer player... I still spend most of my days in the great City where I grew up. We own a business in Mount Pearl, my mother still lives in the home where I grew up and I often hear my husband joke about my 'full time' volunteer job with Campia Gymnastics."
Hollet said Mount Pearl will always be a big part of her. "And I couldn't be more thrilled to be giving back to the youth and sport in the City of Mount Pearl."
Campia started out as a non-profit group in 1986, Hollett noted. In 1994 it took over responsibility for the City's gymnastics program and several years later merged with a club in Conception Bay South. "Today, Campia's membership is approximately 1,000 athletes with a waiting list of nearly 400 participants, surpassing all of our projections to this point," she said.
The new facility will be twice the size of the current one being leased in Donovans Business Park. "Imagine what we will be able to offer to the community once we move into our new home," Hollett said. "Our new 12,000 square foot facility will be the largest gymnastics facility in Newfoundland and Labrador... We will be able to accommodate more members and with the addition of new foam pits, the athletes will be able to train in a safer environment. This truly is a dream come true and I cannot wait to see the looks on the children's faces the first time they walk through the doors to see their new home."
Hollett said fundraising will continue over the next year to raise money for new equipment. "We want to walk into our new facility on the first day with shiny new equipment for the children," she said. "Although we have raised a significant amount of money to this point, we still need to continue raising funds to make this happen."
The new centre, said Hollett, has been 10 years in the making. She thanked Campia's board members, staff, the City of Mount Pearl and the provincial government for bringing the dream to reality.
"Gymnastics teaches so many things," said Hollett. "Not only strength and flexibility, but teamwork and social skills, self-confidence and work ethic, discipline and determination, performance and compassion and the list goes on. Thank you, City of Mount Pearl and provincial government. Be proud knowing you have impacted all these children in setting the foundations for a brighter future."