VERNON - A local gymnastics society is hoping a partnership with the city will lead to a bigger, better centre for Vernon youth in the next few years.
The North Valley Gymnastics Society was founded in 1993 and for a long time ran its programs out of the Beairsto Elementary School gym. In 2004, issues with gym availability led the society to the Vernon Recreation Centre and Armstrong Elementary School — wherever it could book time — but the group still didn’t have a permanent home.
In 2012, it began leasing a space near Canadian Tire, but demand continued to grow. President Rob Vat says the society has outgrown the location, which was too small to begin with, but id better than nothing.
“We have to turn people away throughout the year because we don’t have room,” Vat says.
The society offers artistic gymnastic programs six days a week throughout the year to children, and some adults. It also hosts school classes, special needs groups, homeschool students fulfilling their physical education components, and runs a popular drop-in program used by cross-training athletes and those who couldn’t get a spot in one of the scheduled programs.
“Gymnastics is a foundational thing for all other sports,” Vat says. “It gives them strength, body coordination awareness, and balance. The big thing is they’re actually exercising, it’s a strength sport, very disciplined.”
The society approached the City of Vernon at a council meeting Monday, June 8, to ask for support establishing a new centre by 2018. Specifically, the society is asking the city for a location, and backing in the form of a loan guarantee. The centre itself would be fully funded by the gymnastics user group, Vat says.
“We’re not looking for a $4-million place, we’re just looking for a hand. We’ll take it from there and pay our own way,” Vat says.
A bigger space would mean the society could take on more kids, and also have an official-sized gym space.
“Right now, it’s not an official size, it’s like playing hockey between the blue lines,” Vat says of the roughly 3,500-square-foot gym space. “For the vault runway, (the gymnasts) start in the lobby and run through the double doors because it’s too short.”
The centre is mostly focused on recreation, but Vat says there are some youth that compete.
“Even with our limited space, three kids went to the provincials and one kid took a first,” Vat says. “They’re making do with what we’re able to give them and we’re proud of what they’ve done.”
The society hopes to secure a 12,000-square-foot space and have it ready by January 2018, when its current lease runs out. Because the programs are used by people around the region, Vernon Coun. Juliette Cunningham suggested the society also appeal to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, something Vat intends to do.
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