‘There are going to be smiles’ – Renewal of W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre underway and on track

Loyalist Township Council and the Township’s fundraising committee at the W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre. The visitors got an update on the progress of the centre’s renewal since construction began at the beginning of April. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingston.

The scene inside the W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre is much different this week from what it was just a couple of months ago.

On Friday, May 31, 2024, Loyalist Township Council and the Township’s fundraising committee visited the new construction site at the W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre at 322 Amherst Drive in Amherstview and got an update on the progress of the centre’s renewal since construction began at the beginning of April.

Visitors to the site donned hard hats, boots, vests, and safety glasses for a tour led by Daniel Moloney, Senior Site Superintendent for Chandos Construction. It was quite a revelation: the site doesn’t look much different from the outside but has been almost completely stripped down inside.

The pool, which has been closed since 2016, will be filled in to become the viewing deck for the new pool that is being constructed.

Daniel Moloney points out how new building standards required the crew to dig two feet deeper into the bedrock to accommodate the new piping required for the project. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

One challenge, Moloney explained, was the bedrock beneath the foundation of the concrete pad of the building. New building standards required the crew to dig a further two feet into the bedrock to accommodate the new piping required for the project, he said, noting, “Last week you wouldn’t have been able to have a tour because you couldn’t have heard me over the jackhammering.”

After the tour, Loyalist Township Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Rebecca Murphy commented on the project, “When we looked at this project back in 2016 and 2017, we were looking to modernize the facility and also address some of the accessibility challenges that we have. We also look to the future for reducing emissions and look toward electrification and future ‘net zero’ options for the facility.”

“So we applied for a number of grants, and we were lucky to be successful through the federal government with the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program, which granted the township $16.5 million. We also have some enabling accessibility funding, which will be applied to this project as well,” Murphy said.

Daniel Moloney points out the features of the old pool and how they will soon be transformed into a viewing platform for the newly built pool. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Some of the new, more accessible features include a hockey viewing platform with reserved space for wheelchair access and a LULA lift (limited to a capacity of 1,400 pounds and 18 square feet of floor space, it takes up about half the space of a traditional elevator).

Next, Project Manager Madison Lockwood commented on the construction timelines, specifically one of the short-term goals: “The goal is for the end of August [or] beginning of September, when we’ll be getting the two lobby spaces done, the upstairs hallway, which will include the office and the multi-purpose room, and then the main lobby, and then downstairs,” including change rooms and the Junior C hockey room as well as the lifeguards’ room.

A glimpse into the deep end of the old pool gives an idea about major changes coming. The area will soon be a downstairs entrance. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

 “So that’s the goal for September, and in the next few weeks, you should see the excavation start for the addition where the pool is going to be,” Lockwood said. “That work will continue over the next year and a half. Then next summer [2025], we will start the work on the rink area itself — the pad, the boards, and stuff like that — when the next hockey season is over.”

Kari Lambe, Manager of Recreation and Facilities, went on to discuss “the actual impact on customers and our residents,” saying, “Our goal was to impact residents as little as possible. As you can see, our library is currently open and will remain open. Our goal with the facility itself was to ensure that it became a year-round destination and somewhere where our community could come and enjoy themselves,… socialize, participate, and be together. So it’s not just an ice rink; it’s a facility that’s year-round… We’re [also] adding the multi-purpose room… This space is going to be new, and it’s going to open the facility up.”

Lambe said that while the old pool was 25 metres with five lanes, the new one will be 25 metres with eight lanes. There will also be a leisure pool, with warmer water better suited for seniors and small children. “So it’s going to be a broader facility that’s going to meet more needs for everybody in the community. For us, from a programming perspective, it’s opening up a world of opportunity for our community, so we’re excited about it,” she said.

“As for the timing of the opening,” Lambe added, “we’re hoping to make some more announcements in the coming weeks.”

The Township has established a fundraising committee to support Council through the identification and implementation of a comprehensive fundraising strategy that aims to meet the fundraising target for the renewal of the W.J. Henderson Recreation Centre. 

This committee is an advisory committee that reports directly to Council, and its initial goal is $900,000. 

Asked if she had any comment to share with the community, Chair Jane Albert said laughingly, “Open your wallets.”

But in all seriousness, Albert went on to say that as the committee works on its strategy, it will be “looking quickly to engage with our communities based on the demographics of use or new use. And we would ask everybody to be incredibly generous and also bring forward any ideas that they may have [for how] they can fundraise from a community perspective. There’s always those unique little pockets of groups looking for something to fundraise for, and this is going to have long and wide-reaching benefits.”

John Armitage, who is also on the committee, was pleasantly surprised by what he saw during the tour of the interior. “I’m just impressed. When you drive by and look at it, you have no concept: it doesn’t look like the scale of all the work that’s being done now. There’s going to be a lot of smiles.”

“Construction seems to be going really well,” agreed Mayor Jim Hegadorn. “There were a few minor things that were found that were being rectified, but we’re still on course with the project. That’s very positive, I think. This is going to be a huge boon for the township, for all the residents and users of it. We’re looking at getting it back in place during our term of Council — but if you think about it, 40 years from now this is still going to be a legacy.”

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