Lifestyle Complex opening draws big crowd, special guests

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – The multi-purpose room at the new Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex was alive with laughter and applause for the grand opening of the $11 million facility on Thursday, June 29.

About 350 local residents, elected officials and municipal staff were joined by special guests – including Logan Shaw of the Montreal Canadians, Antigonish businessman Steve Smith and StFX soccer coach Graham Kennedy – in celebrating the completion of the district’s new recreational, social and athletic hub.

“This is my first time down since the centre was finished, and this is awesome,” said Smith to enthusiastic applause. “It’s unparallelled in, I think, any community. How many communities would have a group of facilities like this all together in one property?”

The CLC – with its soccer field, track, gym/multi-purpose room, GOALS space, fitness centre, shinny rink and skating loop – now forms part of a fuller campus of facilities including the community pool, tennis court, playground, schools, performance centre and ball field.

“This is a game-changer for Guysborough,” said Smith. “There are people who will want to live here because of this facility.”

He talked about the different opinions that arise when a community talks about building a facility like this. “Some people are in favour, and some people aren’t,” he said, adding that he had the same experience when he was involved with fundraising for the Keating Millennium Centre in Antigonish.

“But once it was done and it was up, the community came together and everybody was welcomed in and it just made our community better. And the same thing – if it hasn’t already happened – is going to happen here. It will bring everyone together.”

Smith also told the audience why he decided to give $100,000 to the CLC project.

“I’m from Guysborough County. My mother is from Guysborough County. I can’t go to my mother’s apartment and she doesn’t talk about Guysborough County,” he said to applause and laughter.

The other reason, he said, is the support he received here as a business person. “The people of Guysborough County supported me right from day one in my business and my business career...I was a little Guysborough County guy who went to Antigonish...and tried to start a business and people supported me. And (this gift) is just a little something I can give back.”

Logan Shaw – who participated in golf tournaments that raised funds for the CLC over the years – talked about the backyard rinks his father built when he was growing up.

“We wanted to be out there and have fun...to challenge each other and get better. Seeing this facility, this is what it’s going to bring to this community. It’s going to bring competition, it’s going to bring fun, it’s going to bring friendships together.”

Shaw also had words of warning: “The biggest thing I want to get across today is to not abuse this facility is…Not many communities have something like this. In Glace Bay we have the Bay Plex, and we didn’t look after it. And right now we’re paying for it.”

And he encouraged young people to explore different sports. “It’s not just hockey. You can come here…and play basketball, play soccer, be an athlete...Don’t just love one thing. Try to make yourself better at everything and enjoy it.”

MODG Warden Vernon Pitts thanked the many people and partners who came together to make the Lifestyle Complex a reality, including local residents and businesses. In thanking council, he made special mention of the work of councillor Blair George in fundraising for the project. And he thanked MP Rodger Cuzner and MLA Lloyd Hines for their help in bringing federal and provincial support the complex.

Pitts also thanked local fundraising chair Randy Avery, and all the donors and sponsors who contributed. He expressed special thanks to Warden Owen McCarron and councillors of the Municipality of the District of Antigonish, as well as Warden Michael Mosher and councillors from the District of St. Mary’s, for their contributions to the project.

The warden thanked the various contractors, and builder Marco Construction, for their work on the project.

“Finally, to staff. This has been a big team effort by everyone.” He said the facility is now being passed to the recreation department so that team can “make the best use of these facilities for the betterment and enjoyment of everyone.”

In his remarks, MP Cuzner recalled the early fundraising events toward a skating facility, especially the popular and successful “The Price is Right” event held a decade ago.

“And when I saw Neil DeCoff dressed up as a woman (at that event), I said to myself, ‘This community is all in!’” He added that such fundraising challenges are “not for the faint of heart.”

Cuzner also praised the leadership of MODG's CAO, Barry Carroll, in making the project a reality. “(He) has done a tremendous job on this project.”

Graham Kennedy, coach of both the StFX men’s and women’s soccer teams, talked about his longstanding promise to bring StFX soccer to Guysborough if a new soccer field was built here. That promise is being fulfilled on Sept. 1, when both teams will face off against the Cape Breton Capers at the CLC soccer field.

The opening event included the unveiling of a donor wall, designed as a tree, and another wall with the names of all communities in MODG. The new sign for the Steve Smith Soccer Field and Track Facility was also unveiled, with the help of local minor soccer players.

Guests then enjoyed refreshments, with catering by Days Gone By Restaurant and Bakery, and entertainment by local youth.