As Valley Fitness Centre (VFC) continues searching for a new home – one that would fit its ever-expanding needs and those of a host of other fitness groups – District of Invermere (DOI) councillors said they would be open to offering up some of their land to help the non-profit organization make its wish come true.
That dream, according to Teresa Rogal, the managing director for VFC, is to see: “a true recreation centre here in the heart of Invermere, including gymnastics, including the climbing wall, including the mat groups.”
Those groups are already intent on relocating to VFC’s hoped-for building, with 22 fitness clubs attending an earlier meeting to discuss the possibilities of moving in together.
“In a perfect world, we would love to find a way with you – the District of Invermere – to build this recreation centre. That is our true wish,” she said.
But land was the only gift councillors considered offering when they met with Ms. Rogal on Tuesday, September 10th.
Councillor Gerry Taft said he expects that with the recent purchases of the Columbia Valley Centre ($10 million) and the Lake Windermere Resort Lands ($5 million) that council has already reached the bottom of taxpayer pockets.
Mayor Al Miller said: “There’s only so much that we can tax our citizens,” adding that in his opinion any recreation centre would need to pay for itself.
“It has to be an item that kind of stands on its own financially. Whatever dollars going out have to be covered by memberships, registrations – whatever you want to call it – coming in,” he said.
Leaving aside the costs (which are estimated at $8.9 million and don’t include the land on which the building would sit), Councillor Greg Anderson asked if the fitness groups could work out an arrangement to operate out of the Columbia Lake Recreation Centre.
Ms. Rogal and Melanie Irwin, who was representing Glacier Peaks Gymnastics Society, said that driving is a deal-breaker for residents who would otherwise head to the gym.
Ms. Irwin said membership at the gymnastics club dropped in half when they briefly tried moving to Radium. Now that they’re closer to Invermere, they’re back to bursting at the seams.
“People are just not willing to drive, bottom line,” she said. “Once you get a certain radius from town, people don’t want to drive.”
Fifty of VFC’s members are well over 80, and many of them either prefer to walk or are no longer able to drive, Ms. Rogal said.
“To do something out there, out of town, is in our opinion an absolute no for our community in Valley Fitness Centre. We want them to be welcome to walk, not depend on rides,” she said. “A big pull for us to still stay in town was to really foster that sense of community and to have it be in the heart of Invermere so that we could keep our liveliness here.”
Land options proposed for the recreation centre included the ball diamond area on 4th Avenue by the CPR Lodge or the Lake Windermere Resort Lands in Athalmer. The old community hall site on 8th Avenue was ruled out as it wouldn’t have adequate space for parking.
Council members suggested that VFC continue working to collect partners, to build support for a new recreation centre, and to raise the possibility with Regional District of East Kootenay representatives as the larger community would also benefit from improvements in Invermere.
“You’re not alone in this. We feel the importance,” Mayor Miller told Ms. Rogal and Ms. Irwin as the discussion wound down.
Afterwards, Ms. Rogal said: “I’m feeling very optimistic, very excited, and I will be smiling all day.”
Her next steps will be “to educate the community as to what we’re doing and what we need and how it will benefit them so that we gain their full support – in and beyond Invermere and the surrounding community.”
Later that day the mayor said council moved VFC’s request for a community recreation centre into their top five strategic priorities.
VFC is offering more classes than ever this fall and is running a sale on annual passes, which are available for $425.
“This sale gives our members a chance to purchase their one year at a great price annually. It’s our thank you for being so loyal,” Ms. Rogal said. “It is also our biggest money drive for the year. Being at the beginning of our new fiscal year it helps with budgeting and planning.”
Mat groups support shared space
Travis Tagg, a Japanese jiu jitsu instructor with the Columbia Valley Martial Arts Centre, popped into the meeting to silently share his support. He would love to disband the centre and incorporate it into a comprehensive recreation centre in Invermere.
The day after the meeting, he said: “A family unit can all be doing something at the same time. Right now, you have to run your kids here and then another does some different sport way over here and then good luck trying to go to the gym for half an hour because then you have to pick one up.”
With a shared facility, the whole family could do their separate activities in the same place with no one stuck on shuttle duty, he said.
Justin Relph, a Brazilian jiu jitsu instructor with the Columbia Valley Martial Arts Centre, said: “I think there’s a lot of benefit to having a critical mass – like a lot of groups together – so all the community can see all the different options all in one place… For the community having health and wellness and sport opportunity is really, really important for attraction and retention of residents and just for the health of the community.”