Feds fund W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre retrofit ‘to the tune of $16.5 million’

W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre at 322 Amherst Drive in Amherstview, Loyalist Township. Photo by Cris Vilela.

The W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre in Loyalist Township will receive more than $16.5 million in funding from the federal government to improve the facility’s safety, accessibility, and environmental performance. This will mean replacing the aquatics facility, improving accessibility and mechanical systems, renovating the arena and library, and installing energy-saving components.

The Government of Canada is investing over $16.5 million in this project through Infrastructure Canada’s Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program (GICB). Improvements to the facility should reduce its energy consumption by an estimated 38.6 per cent, and its greenhouse gas emissions by 207 tonnes annually.

The funding was announced today, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, by Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen, Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and Loyalist Township Mayor Jim Hegadorn.

Hegadorn was clearly excited at the prospect of the new money for the project, saying, “Of course, the Township applies for numerous avenues of funding for a variety of projects… We applied [to] the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program for funding, and we were successful to the tune of $16.5 million.”

Hegadorn said pursuing green projects is “very important for the Township. Once we’re done, the new infrastructure with the new mechanical systems and everything… our carbon footprint will be greatly reduced, just with a simple upgrade of the pool and some infrastructure associated with it.”

The upgraded pool will come as a welcome addition to Loyalist Township, which has been without a pool for serveral months due to “significant infrastructure concerns,” resulting in the Township partnering with the local YMCA in order to offer aquatic programming. But the benefits of the retrofitting and upgrading go well beyond those of being able to offer such programming in the Township again, Hegadorn expressed.

“I think we’ve all seen the environmental impacts of climate change,” he said. “The width of our township is on the water along with [Amherst] Island… so every time there’s anything that happens, whether it’s flooding, as we’ve had a few years ago, or drought, it’s a huge impact on our economy [and] our residents. So, everything we can do to reduce our carbon footprint is very important for the Township.”

Once complete, this community hub will give residents access to a state-of-the-art facility where they can connect with each other, as well as with key community and recreational programs and services.

A conceptual drawing of the new Loyalist Township Community Hub, which will see the current W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre retrofitted and upgraded, thanks to a large financial injection from the federal government. Graphic via Loyalist Township.

Asked when the community can expect the new facility to be ready, Hegadorn was optimistic: “We’ve already engaged an architectural firm, MJMA, and they have been working on conceptual drawings for the project so that we could keep advancing it while we were waiting for funding… We’ve also done geotechnical work. With those, we should be able to move straight into community engagement, which we’re planning on in the new year… so, we’re expecting that by the end of 2025 we will have people swimming in a new pool.”

MJMA Architecture & Design is an award-winning Toronto based firm that has designed a number of impressive community centres and aquatics facilities worldwide, including the expansion and renovation of Queen’s John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC) in Kingston.

Hegadorn also pointed out that another exciting feature of the new facility will be a Legacy Space, funded by The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund Legacy Spaces program. According to the website, “Legacy spaces are safe, welcoming places dedicated to providing education and spreading awareness about Indigenous history and our journey of reconciliation.”

In a press release on behalf of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities, MP Gerretsen said, “Quality community and recreational infrastructure is vital to community well-being and development. Today’s important announcement will provide residents in Loyalist with an accessible, modern and green facility they can enjoy for years to come. Our government will continue to work with its provincial, territorial, and municipal partners to invest in local community infrastructure, promote climate action, and build more resilient and inclusive communities.”

The GICB program launched its second scheduled intake in December 2022. Applications are still being accepted until February 28, 2023 for large retrofit projects to existing community buildings or new community building projects with total eligible costs ranging from $3 million to $25 million. The program also continues to accept applications until February 28, 2023 for small and medium retrofit projects to existing community buildings, ranging in total eligible cost from $100,000 to $2,999,999.

Provincial/territorial governments, municipal or regional governments, public sector bodies, not-for-profit organizations, and Indigenous organizations interested in the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program are invited to apply on the Infrastructure Canada website.

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