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Sports groups make Harry Jerome pitch

User groups jockey for space in planned replacement for city’s aging Central Lonsdale rec centre
rec centre

Our sport is popular, growing, and would be a wonderful addition to the new Harry Jerome rec centre.

That was the message City of North Vancouver council heard Monday on behalf of curlers, swimmers, gymnasts, hockey players, and figure skaters.

The one exception was the North Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club.

The club isn’t part of the old rec centre and doesn’t want to be part of the new one, explained club president Harry Carruthers. With plans to finance the new Harry Jerome through construction on the ground the club has used since 1923, Carruthers asked council to help the club relocate.

The club needs an expanded clubhouse and two lawn bowling greens, stressed Carruthers.

“Our club cannot survive with a single green,” he said.

While a few councillors broached the possibility of housing the club inside Harry Jerome or on its roof, Carruthers said most members are “vehemently opposed” to being on a roof, preferring to bowl in the great outdoors.

While council generally refrained from making comments, Coun. Rod Clark thanked the lawn bowlers for being adaptable.

“It’s so refreshing to have someone come in front of us willing to negotiate,” he said.

Curlers crowded council chambers to rally for their sport, which has taken a hit since the North Shore Winter Club pulled curling from their club in 2015. The new Harry Jerome rec centre should have eight curling sheets, according to North Shore Curling Association chairman Mark Bailey.

Asked if he would accept fewer sheets, Bailey said eight sheets would allow for future growth.

“We, at the moment, are hanging on to the eight sheets.”

Acknowledging it wasn’t a “terribly nice question,” Coun. Rod Clark asked Bailey about the City of Coquitlam’s recent decision to convert a curling rink into ice for hockey, ringette, or skating.

Coquitlam didn’t include curling groups in the marketing and operations, thereby removing their chances to attract more members, according to Bailey.

The revenue stream created by the club should “amply cover” operating costs, according to Bailey.

In summing up their position, league co-ordinator Jeanne Douglas emphasized the importance of allowing North Shore curlers – including youth – to curl on the North Shore.

“North Vancouver is one of the largest communities in Western Canada without a curling rink. We want to change that.”

The curlers got a boost from North Vancouver Sport and Recreation Council president Lawrence Smyth.

After discussing the need for an Olympic-sized ice rink to accommodate growing membership in men’s and women’s hockey as well as figure skating, Coun. Rod Clark asked a key question.

“Is a second arena a better fit … or do we go with a curling rink?” he asked.

“I believe that the arena user groups could forego an extra arena or extra rink … if it would accommodate curling,” Smyth answered.

Smyth also supported a 50-metre pool, which he said would enhance swimming throughout the region.

The cost of an eight-lane, 50-metre pool could be as low as $750,000 per year, according to North Shore Aquatic Society president Linda Sullivan.

Taking an average of other 50-metre pool costs, Sullivan suggested the annual operating cost might be as high as $1.4 million. However, she explained that the same methodology led her to conclude a 10-lane, 25-metre pool would cost around $1.2 million each year.

The longer, narrower pool would also ease traffic, according to Sullivan.

Hundreds of families pack the highway every day as they head to bigger pools, she said.

“We believe with a 50-metre pool, they would stay on the North Shore.”

Sullivan’s presentation also included references to an anonymous philanthropist who might be willing to contribute $5 million while expecting nothing in return, according to Sullivan.

“We need to see the money,” Coun. Pam Bookham explained.

Sullivan also touted support from senior levels of government for a 50-metre pool, but Coun. Holly Back was curious about the nature of that support.

“There’s a big difference between, ‘Yes, it’s a good idea,’ and ‘Here’s the money,’” she said.

Flicka Gymnastics showed up with cash in hand.

“We are ready to write a cheque for $1 million as soon as we get started on the new facility,” said Flicka’s executive director Keith Ryan.

While the Mickey McDougall rec centre can’t quite accommodate gymnastics, Ryan said he’s hopeful a large gymnasium in Harry Jerome could help the club accommodate aspiring gymnasts currently confined to wait-lists.

Flicka’s membership is more than “the combined registrations of minor hockey, figure skating and ringette,” he said.

Ryan’s membership seemed to be appreciated by council.

“Thank you for coming with some money on the table,” Buchanan said.

With the population of seniors expanding, the Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre likewise needs to grow from about 13,000 square feet to 22,000 square feet, according to executive director Annwen Loverin.

Approximately 600 times each day, a senior gets exercise, legal advice, a bite to eat, or takes part in one of Silver Harbour’s other activities, according to Loverin.

The centre is especially valuable for seniors with low incomes or who face mental or physical health concerns, according to Loverin.

With an emphasis on daytime, weekday activities, the centre could share space with other groups, she explained.

Underground parking would also be a boon for the 74 per cent of seniors who drive or are driven to the centre, Loverin noted.

Loverin also noted their current site behind Harry Jerome has been assessed at $2.4 million, but could be “considerably more” if the area was built out.

The meeting concluded with Mayor Darrell Mussatto suggesting councillors consider each proposal while being mindful of the finances involved.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to have to be able to pay for this,” he said.

Council was set to receive public input on the project at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at the Pinnacle at the Pier.

The public is also invited to review options and take part in an online survey at Survey closes this Friday, May 19.

This article has been amended to correct the spelling of Lawrence Smyth. The original article misspelled his name as 'Smith.'