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State of Salmon Arm facilities spurs effort to create sport and culture council

‘You can’t do that on your own, you have to do that collectively’

Swim coach Barry Healey believes the time is right for local sport and culture organizations to pool resources towards a collective voice.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shuswap Selkirks Swim Club coach was advocating for a sports council that would be formed by, and a voice for, the various sport organizations in the Shuswap.

“The whole goal of that is to try and bring all the sports groups under one umbrella,” Healey told the Observer at that time. “We all have the same problems in small communities. At the moment every group is working on their own, but collectively that group has a bigger voice together – it’s massive.”

While pandemic stifled momentum on the initiative, recent and ongoing concerns around a pair of municipal facilities have helped rekindle Healey’s interest in creating a collective body, though the scope of representation has expanded to include arts and culture, with an overarching goal in promoting a vibrant, healthy community.

“It could be a mega destination for children and adults, but it’s harder to do if it’s just one person like myself selling that pitch,” said Healey in a recent interview. “You need everybody together saying what can we do with this thing, because you need volunteers, you need officials, you need sponsors, and bringing us all together would give us the power to make those statements to all levels of government, saying, ‘hey, this is the ideal place to come.’”

The facilities of concern include Salmon Arm’s swimming pool and the SASCU Indoor Memorial Sports Complex, the latter being closed last winter for structural concerns. A recent engineering report recommended the sports complex, used by soccer, archery and other sports groups, as well as the Shuswap Agricultural Association for the annual Salmon Arm Fair, be replaced.

“If we look what’s just happening with facilities, with the swimming pool in dire need, the soccer centre/indoor centre collapsing, if you bring all the people that deal with sport and leisure… bring them all together, then we would have a better idea and we’d have more power about what do we need for the area,” said Healey. “It’s not who shouts the loudest, it’s we really need a swimming pool… we really do need some indoor training facilities for all the sports to be able to go. Not just can we get a high school for the night. You can’t do that on your own, you have to do that collectively.”

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With the indoor arena situation, Healey has gained an ally in Salmon Arm Fair manager Jim McEwan, who believes a council for sport and culture would give smaller groups a greater voice, particularly when it comes to expressing needs.

“It’s much like the OCP (official community plan), let’s look at what does the next 15 years look like… what are our priorities around facilities and why?” said McEwan, noting such a council is something that’s been in the works for a while, and made a greater priority with the arena’s closure.

“I think the pool is also one of those facilities that is a priority, it’s important,” said McEwan. “The other side of that is you want to make sure you do it right, and that’s why you definitely want to have your user groups onboard and involved in those consultations to make sure we do it right right out of the gate, so five years down the road you’re not going boy, I wish we added those two lanes or I wish we added this. We all know costs keep increasing and you don’t want to have to go back in or have missed the boat on an opportunity.”

McEwan said a model for what he and Healey envision already exists.

“The model that I foresee is one that came out of the 2012 BC Winter Games that we held in Vernon,” said McEwan. “We used some of the legacy funds to start a sport and culture council and that’s still going strong. It supports all organizations in bidding for events and it also makes sure the facilities needed are at least put on a planning stage.”

Another reason the timing is right for the creation of a sport and culture council, said Healey, has to do with the growing population, with more people looking at what Salmon Arm and area have to offer.

“This is a great time to go, everybody is listening,” said Healey. “We’ve had a massive influx of young people… who need facilities for their children, and that’s why some of the companies have come here, because they think it’s a beautiful place to live. People don’t come to place where there’s nothing but ‘hey, let’s go sit on the beach.’”

Anyone interested in forming a sport and cultural council may contact Healey at 780-605-1052, or McEwan at 250-832-0442.

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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