By Gord Bowes, News staff
The city’s largest recreation centre is up and running on the west Mountain.
Nearly two years after it was supposed to be finished, the 50,000-square-foot Westmount Recreation Centre opened for business this week.
It replaces the old Westmount centre, which was closed out of safety concerns in 2008.
Coun. Terry Whitehead (Ward 8, west Mountain) told the crowd at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that just prior to the emergency closure, he received a utilization study on the old Westmount centre which said the facility would need to be replaced in several years. A few days later, he received a call to tell him a wall was collapsing and the centre would have to be closed.
“It was so close to the end of its life cycle it didn’t make much sense to put more money into it,” said Whitehead.
When the infrastructure stimulus fund was announced a few months later, a replacement for the centre was put on the list of projects the city wanted to build, though it was near the bottom because plans had not been fully prepared.
Westmount was picked, along with several other projects on the city’s wish list, and the $21-million recreation centre was announced in June 2009 as part of federal-provincial infrastructure stimulus projects during a fiscal recession of the time. In a three-way partnership with the municipality, each party was to pay one-third of the cost, or about $7 million.
The original deadline was set for March 2011, then extended to December 2011.
A number of factors have been cited as reasons for the delays, from the original site selection to securing a suitable contractor to problems with the pool foundation.
The delays resulted in Queen’s Park and Ottawa cutting their original contribution pledges to $4.7 million and $3.85 million, respectively, based on the percentage of the project completed on time.
Whitehead thanked both upper levels of government for their funding, noting there would still be no Westmount centre if it wasn’t for their funding. He made special note of the province’s help with bridge funding.
Local Conservative MP David Sweet said while the city did not receive the full federal share of funding because of missed deadlines, his government has not shortchanged Hamilton by any means. He cited a number of federal investments, including recent funding of expansions at Ancaster and Sackville senior centres, as proof of his government’s help for Hamilton.
“I think the investment has been very significant,” he said.
Mayor Bob Bratina noted the federal government has been dropping by Hamilton “with chequebook” to help with a number of projects in recent years, including $69 million for the new Pan Am stadium under construction to replace Ivor Wynne.
During the opening ceremony, Bratina described his memories of the west Mountain from visiting an uncle on West 18th Street over 60 years ago.
At the time there was from no recreation centre, he said, the area has gone through a whole life cycle and is now into a period of renewal.
The new centre, located at 35 Lynbrook Dr., features a 25-metre, eight-lane pool, a warm pool with slide and hydrotherapy jets, a youth centre, a seniors activity room, a dance/fitness studio, a gymnasium, a community meeting space and three multi-purpose rooms.
Free wi-fi Internet access is available in the building and a media wall — featuring TV, Xbox and computers with Internet access — is being installed in the youth room this spring.
Whitehead said the wide range of offerings was a conscious step away from the traditional approach of strictly recreational activities.
“We wanted a facility that was truly a community hub,” said Whitehead.
For information on programs, see hamilton.ca/rec.