Multi-million dollar reno to keep pace with La Ronge's bustling activity
- EFN Staff | May 23, 2016
If you are looking for action, pick any day of the week and walk into the Jonas Roberts Memorial Community Centre on the Lac la Ronge Indian Band reserve. On this day to visit Kevin Roberts the Director of Sports and Youth Recreation for the band, the entry way was jammed with students taking a food safety course, supplies were being unloaded into the gym and a dozen construction workers banged and cut and welded all over the recent expansion.
“We are hoping to be done by September,” said Roberts of the $3.6 million renovation. “And we expect the place to stay just as busy. We have really outgrown it.”
The renovations will increase the capacity of a building that can only be described as the hub of the community. Once they are done there will be new arena seating, board room space, a bus garage, walking track and an expanded fitness centre that will accommodate more equipment and change rooms.
“This arena runs flat out from September to the end of April for leagues and tournaments and we have many events in the gym for the community and our fitness centre is overwhelmed right now. We actually raise quite a bit of our budget for programs by selling memberships, renting the hall and even by selling programs at minor hockey games,” said Roberts of the challenges and opportunities in running the complex on his $1.4 million budget. “Most importantly we provide opportunity for kids to be involved and receive the physical, mental and social benefits of sports and recreation. We want to give them the option to not even be part of negative things. We want kids to go home at the end of the day after they did some exercise or participated in a program and they feel good about themselves.”
Another important role for the centre is as a hub of communications and gathering when there are evacuations.
“Ever since we built the communiplex the hockey talent has gone up. Our kids are competing locally, regionally, nationally and internationally,” said Chief Tammy Cook-Searson who also competes in the King Trapper competitions held in the gym. “But this place also turns into our main hub area when we have evacuations. It has so many purposes and serves the community so well the expansion is welcomed. The building is well used.” They are also installing a new generator to power the building in the event of power outages being that the JRMCC serves as the emergency center.
Chief Cook-Searson knows the benefit of sport and hopes people take to the indoor walking/running track. She went from an overweight snuff chewing smoker to a person now running half marathons.
“When you exercise, it helps you with your mental health. It helps you deal with stress,” added Chief Cook-Searson. “We all win with sport.”
And a win it has been for the sports department at the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. Their teams have been on or near the top of many hockey tournaments across Saskatchewan and sports programs are expanding. But to Roberts, it is not just about building winning teams.
“I am leaning more towards developing good people over NHL stars. It also comes to academics too,” said Roberts. “A lot of top hockey players don’t even graduate high school. That does a disservice to recreation programs where you try to produce NHL players but not good young people. We need to turn some of that focus around and get kids to take leadership roles, go to school and give back to the community. That’s what I think sport and recreation is all about.”
And they can come learn about all that every day at the newly expanded Jonas Roberts Memorial Community Centre.