Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not quite the Big comfy counch, but surely the next best thing

The Jim Ciccone Civic Centre is looking for a major refurbishment of the seating arrangements in the Gymnasium, as the city begins the process of replacing the current wooden bleachers in the Main Gym or Russell Gamble Gym as it is known as, with a more modern, comfortable and plentiful version of seating.

The refurbishment of seating was brought up at last week's City council meeting as council offered up its support on the motion to investigate funding sources and finance options, (including a minimum set-aside of 10% in the 2009 Capital Budget) to undertake a replacement of the bleacher system in the Gymnasium.

Details of the request for replacement were provided in the Agenda for last Tuesday's council meeting, costing out the financial commitments required at $282,337.00 and listing the potential sponsors that could help bring the project to a successful conclusion. (see page thirteen of agenda for the full report to council)

With the new seats in the planning phase, the city is also launching a public campaign to purchase seat plates for the new grandstands, a chance for local businesses, groups or organizations to mark their place in the Gym and help defray the cost of the improvement to the recreation centre.

The first big winner of the new and improved seating arrangements will be the All Native Basketball Tournament in February, which will celebrate it's fiftieth edition with at least 400 more opportunities to have a place to sit to view the action.

The Daily News featured details of the plan in Tuesday's paper.

Bleachers set to add comfort, capacity to ANBT
By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Pages one and six

For years, the All-Native Basketball Committee has been wishing for more seating at their tournament.

Finally, it appears as though their wish will come true, and not a moment too soon, as the ANBT prepares to celebrate the 50th annual tournament this coming February.

"I'm floored," said Clarence Martin, ANBT chair. "It's going to add a whole new dimension to it."
To make that dream a reality, the Prince Rupert Recreation Department has come up with a unique way of raising money for the new bleachers. They're calling it "Buy the Seat of our ANTs" where an individual, family, business, or sponsor can "purchase" a seat, a row, or even an entire section, and with seats then adorned with a commemorative plaque.

Through the program, people can buy a seat and dedicate it to a family member or friend, or they can attach their own name to it. Businesses, obviously, have the option of naming a row or a section in their name as well.

"We hope to sell 1,400," said Michael Curnes, Director of Recreation and Community Services. "It's one of the few ways to upgrade our facility, given our economic history.

"It's a chance for people to leave their mark at the facility. It brings history ... and also makes history."

'Historic' is certainly the theme going forward, as the ANBT approaches its 50th. So it's no surprise that the ANBT Committee is endorsing this project, which will mean an end to the old - and at times, uncomfortable - bleacher seating that currently exists.

"All of those old wooden bleachers are going to be taken right out," said Martin. "They're all going to be replaced with beautiful seating.

"It's going to mean a lot more comfort and it adds 400 seats."

The new bleachers, when they arrive, will all have backs to them, similar to the bleachers they currently have inside the multi-purpose room at Charles Hays Secondary School.

In addtion to repalcing the old bleachers, the new bleachers wil now be at all four sides of the Gym, as opposed to the floor seating that used to exist behind both baskets.

This enables the ANBT to sell more tickets - an important factor, considering how many teams potentially could be atteneding this February.

This is because the ANBT had deiced to nix th All-Native Qualifying Tournament, and instead, allow any team that wishes to attend to travel in February, and compete in two divisions.

Much like European soccer (or "football", as it is called overseas), teams will compete in A- division and B- division, and following every tournament, the bottom three teams from the main bracket will slide into B-division, while the top three in B-division get to move up to the big dance.

"We definitely want to implement this," said Martin. It's going to cut down the travelling cost (for all teams)."

In this manner, all teams only have to worry about getting to Rupert once in February, as opposed to the additional cost of qualifying in November like years past.

The 2009 tournament has already expanded to run from Fri. Feb 6 to Sat. Feb. 14, but even going forward, Martin said that the most teams the ANBT can accomodate is 68.

Feb. 6, as reported last month in the Daily News, will be reserved as "cultural" day as every nation attending is invited to participate in the cultural celebration.

"We're getting quite excited now, leading up to the plans," said Martin.

"We want to create a new image for the ANT Board."

"I'm excited to see what everyone's reaction is going to be when they walk into the russell Gamble Gymnasium for the first time."

Naturally, the excitement has to be held in check when it comes to seating, as the recreation department needs to sell as many of those dedicated seats as possible to raise the necessary funding to purchase the new bleacher seating.

But Curnes is confident that will happen.

"As long as we have funding by September 1, we can follow through with this project," said Curnes.

"We are definitely shopping for sponsors for the ANBT."

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