Worth the wait

Darcy MacRae
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It took five years, but local gymnastics club finally has new home at Memorial Stadium Dominion

There is no wiping the smile off Jim Hurley's face this week. Hurley, president of the Cygnus Gymnastics Club in St. John's, recently watched his club move into a brand new facility at the Memorial Stadium Dominion on Lake Avenue, and judging by the excitement in his voice, it's obvious he's pleased with the new digs.

"We've gone from about 5,800 square feet to about 9,200 square feet," Hurley said. "It's just tremendous, not just for gymnastics, but for amateur sports."

Cygnus Gymnastics Club instructor Lukas Stritt works with 10-year-old Tim Spencer on the pommel horse as nine-year-old Griffin Brophy (left) looks on Monday at the club's new space at the Dominion supermarket complex in the old St. John's Memorial Stadium

There is no wiping the smile off Jim Hurley's face this week. Hurley, president of the Cygnus Gymnastics Club in St. John's, recently watched his club move into a brand new facility at the Memorial Stadium Dominion on Lake Avenue, and judging by the excitement in his voice, it's obvious he's pleased with the new digs.

"We've gone from about 5,800 square feet to about 9,200 square feet," Hurley said. "It's just tremendous, not just for gymnastics, but for amateur sports."

For more than 20 years, the Cygnus Gymnastics Club trained out of a facility in Buckmaster Circle, an aging building that barely contained the equipment used by gymnasts. The limited space meant kids often had to sit and wait for equipment to become available, but that shouldn't be a problem anymore, according to Hurley.

"It gives our athletes so much more room," Hurley said. "It gives them more use of all the apparatuses, and this gym was designed specifically for gymnastics."

Hurley admits he was blown away when he finally saw the finished gymnastics centre at the old Memorial Stadium and adds it's a feeling shared by the young athletes who now use it.

"You wouldn't believe it," he said of the expression on the gymnasts' faces. "A lot of our competitive athletes, they train 22 hours a week, when they saw the new building ... you could just see how excited they were. They were just like helium balloons popping off the ceiling. They can't wait to get back to the gym the next day."

Bautista's idea paid off

The new facility is the brain child of Dr. Michael Bautista, who was president of the Cygnus Gymnastics Club in 2002 when he came up with the idea of teaming with Loblaws. Bautista approached the grocery store chain with a proposal of housing the gymnastics club in the store, an idea that helped his club get a much needed facility and aided Loblaws in its effort to get the City of St. John's to allow a grocery story in the former hockey stadium.

"(Dr. Bautista) has tremendous vision, it was his insight that got us rolling and here we are today with a $1.3 million facility," said Hurley. "We're not naive enough to think (Loblaws) isn't getting something out of this too. Sure they are, but at the end of the day, amateur sport is gaining. It's a great use of an old space."

Although he didn't want to reveal the specifics of the deal his club has with Loblaws, Hurley said Cygnus Gymnastics signed a 20-year lease to use the Memorial Stadium Dominion, a lease that frees up a lot of the club's money for new equipment.

"They've been very, very generous to us," Hurley said of the lease signed with Loblaws.

Hurley admits the partnership between a non-profit, amateur sport and a large corporate business is "unheard of," but he hopes the trend continues in St. John's. He said he'd like to see other corporations spend money on youth sports the way Loblaws has on his gymnastics club.

"It's certainly worth looking into," he said. "The relationship we have with Loblaws is fabulous, it's the perfect arrangement."

The Cygnus Gymnastics Club, which has more than 1,000 members, moved into the Memorial Stadium Dominion Sept. 24, however the opening ceremonies were held Sunday. Among the 300 people in attendance were Phillip Pratt and Charlie Henry, who designed the gymnastics centre.

dmacrae@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Memorial Stadium Dominion, Cygnus Gymnastics Club, Loblaws

Geographic location: St. John's

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