Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation, Robert Baker, has taken a little inspiration from the past and made it new.
Greater Trail residents may have noticed construction activity in front of the Trail Memorial Centre (TMC), new windows going in on the southeast corner or popping up on the backside of the Cominco Arena.
That is just a small indication of the work Baker and TMC staff have been doing in anticipation of the day the complex will finally reopen to the public.
“Things were slow because of COVID, and you could feel everyone being concerned,” said Baker. “Across the province folks have been laid off in Recreation, so as long as we had staff on the payroll we had to give them meaningful work.
“And I didn’t think there was anything more meaningful then tackling a project like this.”
TMC staff made the most of more than a year of limited activity in the arena, fitness room, curling rink and gym due to COVID-19 by undertaking a massive upgrade with blueprints from the past.
Staff gutted the old public library creating a clean and expansive multi-purpose space, installed windows inside the Cominco Arena, and unveiled the covered up windows hidden behind the walls of the Red Floor and McIntyre Rooms, giving users a whole new perspective of the Kids Rink below.
“Looking at those photos, ever since I got here in 2010, the Kids’ Rink, I knew it used to have windows,” said Baker. “So with COVID, staff was quieter and I was like hey, ‘Why don’t we rip this plywood off and see what’s there?’
“So we ripped it off and there was the glass.”
The renovated space and unveiled windows reveals an extensive view of the ice below, with some nice touches like the Kids’ Rink dedication plaque and framed archived photos of the rink, in which the original windows and other doorways can be plainly seen.
“At the end of COVID we’ll all of a sudden have a whole new space that can be provided for to the community and one they’ve never had before.”
For Baker, the restoration inspiration came from the 70th Anniversary of the TMC in 2019, when the front foyer received a makeover along with a new logo and exploded historic photos from the Trail Museum.
Many of the museum’s archived photos show the original design of the TMC and Cominco Arena depicting an exterior covered with welcoming windows rather than bleak cinder blocks, and the interior a similar contrast.
Rather than an upper mezzanine compartmentalized into the various rooms, display cases, and hidden closets; in 1949 residents enjoyed a large open space with lounge seating, a concession, and a cloak room – a layout that Baker would like to resurrect in the future.
His vision includes making the area welcome to all ages, connecting Trail’s seniors with its young athletes in a vibrant common area that clearly depicts Trail’s prolific sports history, while restoring the lounge-like vibe where residents can come for a morning coffee or enjoy a beverage between periods at Smoke Eaters games.
“What if we restored the building as it was done before?” queried Baker. “I can imagine a multi-generational space, so we open up those windows to the Kids Rink again, and we have seating, almost lounge seating, as well as historical pieces from service clubs and amateur sport, throughout the seating area.
“When you look at the original buildings and old photos, you realize, no, that’s not how it was designed, we did that. Over the years we blocked things in. Originally it was very open, windows, open space … and it had a name, it was called the Memorial Lounge.
“So if the community wanted to go down this road and bring back the space it use to be, it already has a name.”
The builders of the Trail facility also envisioned another story added onto the existing structure, which originally planned for a bowling alley and later changed to an auditorium.
Barring the addition of another story, Baker sees so much potential in resurrecting the original vision of the TMC architects, and would like to get the public on board in sharing and supporting a new and improved, but historically relevant focal point for Trail residents.
In addition, Baker says the timing couldn’t be more perfect with the the 75th anniversary of the TMC coming in 2024, along with Trail’s 125th birthday, opening the possibility for grant funding from different levels of government and other resources.
“My goal is for people to start talking about it and continue to build momentum,” added Baker. “I think it will happen quite naturally.
“I see those milestones as an opportunity to restore this building and make sure it continues to be relevant.”