Located in Grenadier Park, the new and long-anticipated Kingston East Community Centre (KECC) opened its doors to the public for the first time on Monday, Mar. 21, 2022.
Kingston’s east end community has been pushing for a central gathering space for quite some time, with initial planning beginning in the fall of 2014. Construction of the complex has taken nearly three years to complete, as the ground was officially broken for the build in December 2019. With the help of local partners such as the YMCA, which will be providing fitness programming at the centre, this new space will be a community hub with a little something for everyone, including arts, cooking, fitness, technology, language and preschool programs, as well as an outdoor splash pad, ice rink, and skate park.
The ribbon-cutting and soft opening ceremony was initiated by Grandmother Kathy Brant of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, who shared Ohenten Kariwatekwen (Mohawk: Words before all else) and an acknowledgement of territory. She was followed by Chief R. Donald Maracle, also of Tyendinaga, who gave a brief history of the territory and relations between Indigenous peoples and European settlers. Chief Maracle spoke to those in attendance about the Dish With One Spoon Treaty, of which Kingston is a part, and its reminder to all who live under the treaty to be kind and respectful to one another and to live in reciprocity.
Mayor Paterson: ‘This is really what community is all about’
As speeches proceeded, Mayor Paterson was the first to speak, taking a moment to reflect on the timeliness of the opening. “On the other side [of the pandemic], I think we all recognize the importance and the value of what it means to gather together again. After two years of being apart, what a great moment for us to celebrate a space where we can come together [and] engage in all kinds of programming and excitement, and to be able to really build again what a community is all about,” he said.
Paterson acknowledged that “it’s taken a huge team of people to put this together and it’s a state-of-the-art facility, something that the whole city of Kingston can be proud of. I think it’s tremendous.” He also noted that “not only did it take teamwork to build this; now it’s going to take teamwork to run it. It’s been amazing to see a whole team of community organizations collaborating and coming in to offer all different kinds of programming here.” Reflecting on the hard work of all involved, Paterson added, “This is really what community is all about.”
Following Mayor Paterson, Michele Dubois of ACFOMI gave a speech in French, so as to recognize and promote the prominent Francophone community in the area and the French programming that will be available at KECC. Dubois was also excited to announce that the annual Francophone fair will be held at KECC in October of 2022.
“We’ve been given a very enriching building that promotes engagement, interaction, and inclusion”
Jeff Rempel, City of Kingston Manager of Facilities and Construction Services — who carried with him his “Big Book of Thank Yous” — spoke about the impressive construction and engineering of the building, noting that the 22,000 square foot facility “will emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption than a single family home across the street, which is incredible.”
Rempel also praised the accessibility of the building: “The accessibility features in this building are second to none. We’ve included a base design that’s at grade, which means that there’s no need for ramps in this building; every single door that’s used has a door operator; there’s assistive listening devices… I could go on and on.”
Furthermore, Rempel emphasized the versatility and efficiency of the building. “[This building] addresses today’s needs, but it’s also future-proofed for what we may need tomorrow that we don’t know yet… We’ve been given a very enriching building that promotes engagement, interaction, and inclusion,” he said.
In conclusion, Rampel acknowledged, “We all know that construction is difficult when times are good. Let’s add construction during a pandemic, ever-changing COVID protocols that you have to work against, and let’s add shutting the site down for provincially-mandated shutdowns. It’s just unbelievable what this team has done. There are over 75,000 work hours put into this project without a single day lost due to injury. That is incredible.”
YMCA partners with City of Kingston to offer accessible fitness services across the city
Rob Adams, CEO of YMCA Eastern Ontario, made an exciting announcement for those looking to access City fitness programming. “Starting today, YMCA users can access this centre, or Artillery Park, or the INVISTA Centre. Likewise, City fitness users can now access YMCA programs and facilities as a reciprocal agreement between the Y and the City. In addition, we try to ensure that financial insecurity can’t be [a barrier] to access things. So, even if an individual can’t afford a City fitness pass or a YMCA pass, you can go to the Y and get an assisted membership and still have access to all those facilities.”
As a growing crowd of youth looked on from the skate park, Helen Maberly, Manager of Kingston Community Health Centre (KCHC), also spoke on behalf of their liaison partnership with the EarlyON child and family program that will be offered at KECC. She especially emphasized how excited EarlyON is to be able to offer Francophone programming for preschool care.
Reconciliation in action in KECC’s orange meeting room
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, guests were invited inside to tour the facilities. Grandmother Kathy Brant offered a smudging ceremony in the orange meeting room. The colour orange has become a symbol of reflection and a call to action and reconcilliation for the genocide inflicted by Indian Residential Schools. As Chief Maracle explained, the meeting room was painted orange as a reflection of “the healing that our people needed to have from the effects of colonialism.” This meeting room is equipped with proper ventilation for any smudging ceremonies that may take place: another great feature, as many buildings require special accommodations and approvals to ensure safety when smudging.
Staff and community members alike were all very excited when touring this new facility on Monday afternoon, with community partners in each of the new program rooms present to provide more information.
KECC, located at 761 Highway 15, will officially open its doors for public enjoyment on Saturday, Mar. 26, 2022 with a grand opening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. During that event, free programming from the City’s Community Partners (the YMCA, the Seniors Association, EarlyON Child and Family Centre, the Boys and Girls Club, and Loving Spoonful) will be on offer, and the Keewaywin Circle will also be present for a drumming and singing circle. Kingston residents are encouraged to drop in at any time during the grand opening.