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Athletes vs. artists

Jessica Gray and Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 19/06) - What Yellowknifers do for fun is on the minds of city consultants. They are conducting a survey on the city's recreational facilities.

On Wednesday and Thursday, they held a public consultation at the Multiplex DND gym so groups and individuals could voice their ideas and concerns about the subject.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Nalini Naidoo is one of the consultants working to find out what Yellowknifers want in terms of of recreational facilities in town by conducting one-on-one interviews, offering online surveys, and holding public meetings. - Jessica Gray/NNSL photo

"We need more outdoor courts," said Jamie Lariviere, president of the Yellowknife Tennis Club.

"Maybe in the Range and Frame Lake areas," he said.

With more than 400 members in the club, Lariviere said the number of courts just isn't enough. He would also like to see indoor courts added to the field house plans, which have not been finalized yet.

Shawn McCann, member of the NWT Board Sports Association, wants to see a new skate park come to fruition.

The Yellowknife skate park is located near N.J. Macpherson school.

McCann said the park needs an overhaul. A new skate park has been in the works for more than 10 years.

The association would also like the city to provide more support in developing a snowboarding park in Bristol Pit.

Yellowknife Ski Club trails co-ordinator John Stephenson said the club's volunteers put more than 10,000 hours into grooming and breaking trails.

"Some of the burden of our volunteers could be relieved," he said.

Other suggestions included more resources and land for community gardens, places where families can spend leisure time together, as well as indoor playgrounds for the long winters.

Artists have complained that they have been forced into a transient existence, operating in any nook and cranny they can find to run their programs.

"It's clear recreation gets more money than the arts," said community development consultant Gary Debney.

The Yellowknife Arts and Crafts Guild has been operating out of St. Pat's school for the past 12 years. It's an agreement that is coming to an end. In its 60 years of existence, the guild has set-up shop in a variety of temporary spaces.

What the guild has never had is a place to call home, and the members hope with the new facilities plan, that will change.

Ideally the guild, which had five of its members attend the city's public consultation, would like at least a 2,000 square-foot space that could accommodate everything from pottery to print making.

It would like to see the facility as part of an arts and culture centre, which would be included with a proposed library that is just one of the ideas for the old Gerry Murphy arena site.

But visual arts space wasn't the only concern. There was also a need expressed for performing arts space.

Although the city does have the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre, Kathy Harper, a member of the guild, said there is nothing in between.

What is needed is small public rehearsal space or a facility to do shows that might not need 300-plus seating.

To get information from Yellowknife residents, Dillon Consulting conducted one-on-one interviews, collected around 60 online surveys and hosted public meetings at the Yellowknife Multiplex.

The surveys included areas to evaluate facilities that already exist in Yellowknife, like the pool and library.

Urban and regional planner associate Nalini Naidoo said she could not release the results of the information she had already collected because it hasn't been compiled.

Another public meeting is scheduled for June 15 to make the information public.

"You need to tell (the public) what you heard them say," said Naidoo, noting it's possible to get some of the facts wrong.

People wanting different things is to be expected, said Debney, because Yellowknife has so many clubs, sports, or groups to get involved with.

"There is a huge range of opportunities here," he said.