Published on March 28, 2013
Draper Lainey, a regular user of the weight room at the West Coast Training Centre in Stephenville, does some reps with the barbells.
Published on March 27, 2013
One of the signs posted Tuesday afternoon at the West Coast Training Centre in Stephenville that was causing grief for regular users of the facility.
STEPHENVILLE Mike Alexander has been using the West Coast Training Centre in Stephenville since he was a teenager.
With the Stephenville facility’s sudden closure, he and many longtime users of the centre are shocked at the loss of a building which has been a recreational and social hub of the Bay St. George region for decades. Now 44, Alexander coaches a variety of sports at the centre, including badminton and basketball. He works in the building as regional co-ordinator for the Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Circle, runs a summer program, plays badminton and runs an active start program which teaches fundamental movements to 27 pre-school children in the mornings.
He said many professionals and residents from other countries count on the centre while integrating themselves into the community.
“A lot of people make the misunderstanding that this is just a gym,” Alexander said. “They don’t understand the implications to the social and mental well being of the entire community.”
Officials from the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Culture informed staff of the unexpected closure in person Tuesday. A sign was posted informing users to remove their belongings from lockers before the doors are locked for good tonight.
The move was part of widespread cuts made to the service sector in the 2013 provincial budget.
Home to a variety of programs such as martial arts disciplines, Zumba, pre-school, badminton, squash and the Special Olympics, the centre has been the training ground for a number of local athletes who have gone on to compete at the provincial and national level.
Alexander is concerned doctors and other professionals might opt to move to a community with a similar facility and programs.
“If they are less content, there is always the opportunity to go to a place where there is more to offer,” he said. “Even if you never set foot in this building ... you don’t want to lose those professionals. This is more than just a place for people to come and sweat a little bit.”
At least three employees could lose their jobs as a result of the closure of the government-subsidized facility.
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He said he’s most disappointed at the silence of local MHA’s on the issue and intends to let his voice be heard in a peaceful, measured manner at a rally outside the centre at noon today.
“We want to communicate clearly what this place means to the community,” he said. “We want to make sure they understand we are very serious and we want to maintain this facility.
“Give us a chance ... 48 hours and the doors are locked? Give me a break.”
Wayne Simon learned of the closure after arriving at the centre Tuesday for his regular Tae Kwon Do class.
A 7th degree blackbelt, he has been training at the centre since 1974 and said the government’s decision was made too hastily.
“We deserve more respect from government than was shown,” Simon said. “If the place was losing money, why didn’t the government up the fees? This should have been told to the groups back in September so we know what’s going on.”
Programs have typically run from September to May, so Simon admits the sudden news has left user groups in a difficult spot.
Several events are planned to raise money for cancer research in April and the centre was set to host the Tae Kwon Do provincial championships in the coming months.
He’s particularly concerned about a team from Labrador which has already booked airfare and lodgings for the event.
“If they cancel, somebody is going to have to pay the cancellation fee of course,” he said.
Alexander has started a Facebook page to raise awareness of the issue. Since launching the site Tuesday evening, the group has swollen to include over 800 members.
Simon, for one, is hoping something can be salvaged if the rally manages to drum up enough support.
“I hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears but you never know,” he said.