A centre for research on and education about polar bears held its official ribbon-cutting in Churchill Nov. 3, a few weeks after opening its doors to the public in mid-October.
Polar Bears International House, the new home of Polar Bears International (PBI) on Kelsey Boulevard, the main street in Churchill, built thanks to donations including $1 million from Canada Goose CEO and PBI board member Dani Reiss and $50,000 from the North West Company, includes an interpretive centre on the first floor and accommodations for visiting researchers upstairs and will be open year-round.
"The Polar Bears International House will play an important role in conserving polar bears," said PBI executive director Krista Wright. "Churchill is where it all began for PBI, and the town has long been the launch pad for our outreach efforts, including our Tundra Connections educational webcasts and the polar bear, beluga, and northern lights cams – which collectively reached more than 9.8 million people last year. The new centre, with its in-house broadcast capabilities and lodging for scientists, will allow us to do even more."
More than 1,000 visitors have already been to the facility, Wright said.
"We congratulate Polar Bears International on the grand opening of their new PBI House and welcome their long-term investment in Churchill,” said Churchill Mayor Michael Spence. “Together, with partners like Polar Bears International and the broader scientific community, Churchill will continue to lead the way in sustainable growth.”
Polar Bears international House was designed by Blouin-Orzes, a Montreal-based architecture firm.
“What affects polar bears, affects us all,” said Reiss. “I’ve been proud to support Polar Bears International and the important work they do for more than a decade. With the opening of the Polar Bears International House, not only will PBI's important research, advocacy and education be able to reach so many more people around the world, but they've also created a beautiful home for their team and the community of Churchill.”
Model and actress Kate Upton, a PBI ambassador, was in town for the ribbon-cutting, along with her husband, Major League Baseball pitcher Justin Verlander, which resulted in a big surprise for Churchill resident Joe Stover, a fan of the Detroit Tigers, who Verlander used to play for. Stover ran into Verlander and Upton during trivia night at the Tundra Inn and Pub on Nov. 2.
“I don’t get star struck often, but I was star struck for sure,” Stover told CTV News Winnipeg. “It was just really really cool to have somebody in my hometown that I had watched on TV for 12 years. I had gone down to Detroit to watch him play. (He) was very friendly, very down to earth. It was pretty surreal.”
Stover posted a photo of himself and Verlander on Twitter to document the occasion.
The ribbon-cutting occurred on the eve of PBI’s sixth annual Polar Bear Week Nov. 4-10, which is intended to draw attention to polar bears and the threats to their sea ice home posed by a warming climate.
"The latest U.N. report on climate underscores the fact that action is needed now to reduce carbon emissions, for polar bears and for all of us,” said PBI senior director of conservation Geoff York in a press release. “One of the most important things that each of us can do is to vote for leaders who support policy solutions."