A long-awaited community hall in Fort St. James is being renovated and will soon cater to a variety of community needs.
“This is going to be sweet,” said Tom Greenaway, Regional District of Bulkley- Nechako director of electoral area C. “When I first moved here we had a community hall but they took that down 30 years ago. It will be a very welcomed site not only for the hall but we get a theatre back. And not just for picture shows, for live entertainment.”
What used to be the Victory Christian Church will soon become the Fort St. James Community Centre. Located beside the Forum arena and across from the EBUS location, the new community centre will cater to a range of Fort St. James organizations including some sports, seniors groups, non-profits and art and culture groups alike. Contract workers started the interior renovation in June and although the finish date was set for October, workers say the project is little over halfway done. Kevin Crook, CAO at the District of Fort St. James, says he hopes to have a grand opening at latest by January 2015.
The main entrance of the building faces the road and as you walk in, immediately located on the left side, is a racket ball and squash court. To be able to have both sports accessible, a moveable wall is being put in that will section off the court area for multi-use.
Next is a grand reception room that will function as a multi purpose space for conferences, weddings, or any type of large get-together. The 2,500 square foot room can hold 170 people sitting and houses a stage in the corner for a band or guest speaker. Seven large storage spaces also allow space for users to rent and space to store tables and chairs.
“It’s awesome for the community. Something we’ve been without for a long time, and it’s time,” said Judy Greenaway, President of the Stuart Lake Seniors Association. “The seniors will definitely be using it for carpet bowling and our annual christmas potluck. Our building holds just 60 people and many times we get more than 60.”
Located at the back of the building is the large theatre that can be used either as a movie theatre or live theatre. A 18 foot deep stage runs the full width of the theatre that will be able to seat 130 guests. An added balcony will make up for the seats lost by making the stage bigger.
“We’re fully revitalizing the theatre by adding more to the stage and balcony,” said Mr. Crook.
The old theatre’s seats will be used in the new theatre but more will be added. A metal beam has also been added for the hookup of new lighting and sound equipment.
A grand piano owned by the Community Arts Council currently lives in the high school but will soon be housed in the new theatre space. An anticipated partial wall will enclose the piano out of sight until needed.
“Many community presentations have been at the high school until now,” said Mr. Crook.
A secondary entrance at the buildings rear will allow the theatre to be open if nothing else. A kitchen also located close to the rear will be able to be used to prepare food for the reception hall or as a concession stand for the theatre. A handful of meeting rooms and a shower facility have also been added to the building that will house a total of 17 bathrooms.