Snuneymuxw gym a gamechanger for community

Tue. Sep. 27/16

Yoga, basketball, Zumba and Sunrise Bootcamp are just some of the activities available on Snuneymuxw First Nation land.

The nation celebrated the official grand opening of the Snuneymuxw Community Building Sept. 1 with a gathering ceremony at the centre, located at 1145 Totem Rd., the site of the former Tuytaxun General Store on Reserve No. 1.

The 1,400-square-metre facility includes a gymnasium, multi-purpose room, commercial kitchen, workout room and meeting spaces.

Construction started in June 2014, and completion of the building marks a new era for the community, which has worked toward creating a central gathering place and recreational facility for the better part of 30 years.

“As a community member, this is everything. The end all, be all,” said Tara White, band administration assistant. “We’ve waited our whole lives for this community centre gymnasium. I know younger future and old generations are excited because there’s something for everyone. The programming is so widespread.”

The facility has been partially open since March, but sport and wellness programs are now getting into full swing. The first Zumba and hot yoga classes were held Monday and Tuesday and Mariah Robinson, Snuneymuxw recreation and wellness centre manager, said people are signing up for memberships.

“It’s coming in really well,” said Robinson, who works for Recreation Excellence, the company contracted to manage the centre. “We’ve had a few people just buy a year membership and our first young teenage boy, the first youth that bought their own membership. Since August, we’ve probably had about 20 memberships and passes sold.”

About 200 drop-in visitors checked out the facility during the 21 days it was open in August, Robinson said.

The gym has capacity for about 860 people and the centre is available for rent to First Nation and non-First Nation community and social events.

“Like tomorrow, for example, we have [Island Health] coming in and having their cultural safety workshop with their nursing staff. Our primary target is the Snuneymuxw community, but we’re open to anyone around the regional surrounding area,” Robinson said.

Because little land space is available on the reserve, the building features an underground parking lot. The building is also the new home for Tuytaxun General Store.

White said the building, which has yet to be given an official name, cost between $4-6 million and credits continued efforts by past band administrations and staff for keeping the project alive from its conception to completion. The focus now is on adding programs, such as physiotherapy and rehabilitation, which can be offered close to home.

“It’s a big day for our community,” White said. “A lot of people are going to utilize it.”

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by  Chris Bush - Nanaimo News Bulletin