The District of Fort St. James is eager to have people use the new Community Hall, even though its official opening isn’t until October 3. However, the Hall has already played host to several events, including weddings, the summer recreation program, and a Music on the Meadow mini-event earlier this year.
The idea of re-establishing a Community Hall in Fort St. James after some 30 years without one has been around since 2008, when the Hoy family donated $500,000 towards a Hall. “It took a while to get the project off the ground,” says Economic Development Officer Emily Colombo, but that initial donation “lit a fire under Council”. Grants were applied for, and a committee was formed to talk about what the community wanted in a Hall. “They wanted something unique, that wouldn’t duplicate what was already available in town,” says Colombo.
It was initially hoped that enough funds would be raised to construct a new building, but without federal funding that was not possible. Instead the District purchased property and an existing building on Stuart Drive East, and renovations began in the spring of 2014. Most of the work was completed by early May, but there is still some finishing work to be done, including new appliances for the kitchen/concession area.
In addition to a large hall space which can accommodate up to 250 people, the Hall contains two smaller meeting spaces, as well as the kitchen/concession, a multipurpose racquet court which can be used for squash, racquetball, or handball, and a theatre that can be used for live performances or as a movie theatre. The District is currently looking for funding so that it can purchase a digital movie projector and host film nights there. The racquetball court would also be a suitable area for dance or yoga classes, says Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Crook, who notes that one of the upstairs meeting spaces will be fitted out with a special carpet so that seniors can use it for carpet bowling.
An official opening celebration is planned for October 3, with a family-friendly event in the afternoon and a licensed event in the evening featuring music, door prizes, and light refreshments. The theme will be a recognition of volunteers, says Crook, noting that representatives from various community groups will be invited. Asked if there are plans to name the new facility, Crook says it’s under consideration. “The Hoy family have the first choice of a name,” he says. “If they decide not to, we can go from there.”