The City of Thompson paid tribute to the past while celebrating the future home of sports and recreation in the city at the grand opening of the Thompson Regional Community Centre this past weekend during the annual Health and Leisure Mart.
Present for the ribbon-cutting on Saturday as guest of honour were former recreation department employee Mary Fenske, mother of current city councillor Dennis Fenske, as well as Brenda and David Comaskey, daughter and son of the late mayor Bill Comaskey, along with their families.
Fenske was present to witness the re-dedication of the TRCC's new boardroom as the Mary Fenske Boardroom, the name of the now-demolished boardroom in the old recreation centre.
"Our kids grew up with what we thought was a great facility and it was at the time," said Mary Fenske, who borrowed the term "awesome" from emcee Bruce Krentz to describe the new facility, which she urged residents to take advantage of. "I would encourage the parents to come out, bring your children out, take part in everything that's going on and keep the legacy alive."
Brenda and David Comaskey were there for the dedication of the new facility's wellness centre to the memory of their father.
Dad was always very proud to represent the City of Thompson," said Brenda Comaskey. "Naming the wellness centre after him is a wonderful tribute."
In a reception for funders and supporters of the long-hoped-for and long-delayed renewal of the city's recreation centre at the TRCC multi-purpose room on Sept. 7, Mayor Tim Johnston thanked those who stood by the project even when it seemed like it was a journey that was never going to end.
"I got involved as a volunteer when my oldest son was five years old," said Johnston. "He's 22. It was too long but it was because of the commitment of people in this room that it got done and i'm so immensely proud of the leadership of those that were elected, those that volunteered, those that contributed money and those that just kept supporting us and told us keep going. In the 17 years that I was involved I think there were a lot of times when people in this community doubted that it would ever get done."
Johnston also paid tribute to the donors who stepped up with the cash to complete the project, including Vale, which donated $1.5 million to the third and final phases of the project - which had a total budget of $11.8 million - and the provincial government, which ponied up $1.2 million for the final phase. But, he noted, there were smaller contributions along the way that, while they may not have had a big impact on the bottom line, buoyed the spirits of those trying to get the project finished.
"Two youngsters had a birthday party, raised some money and came in and made a contribution when we were really struggling," Johnston said. "Rachel and Oscar Lafreniere, they brought their dollars in and made a presentation and they deserve a hand for the work that they did.
"We did it," said Steve Ashton, Thompson MLA and minister of infrastructure and transportation. "We built a world-class facility right here in Thompson, Manitoba."
The federal government also contributed to the project through the Building Canada Fund and congratulated the city on its completion in a statement from Lynn Yelich, minister of state for Western Economic Diversification.
"The government of Canada is proud to have supported the Thompson Regional Community Centre, which created jobs in Northern Manitoba, while improving infrastructure in the community," she said. "Our investment in this project is ensuring that residents have access to quality social, cultural and recreational opportunities, helping make this city a better place to live."