The small, rural township of Wellesley is taking on a massive, transformational project.
Construction has officially begun on the town’s new $27-million recreation centre aimed at supporting the needs of all members of the growing community.
“This is going to be transformational for this community,” said Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak.
“It’s going to be a whole new way of interacting, socializing, competing [and] bringing all the communities within Wellesley Township together,” he added.
The Wellesley Township Recreation Complex, a 62,000 square foot space, will feature many services including youth and seniors’ centres, a multi-purpose gym and community hall, a hockey rink, an outdoor skatepark, soccer fields and walking trails.
From old arena to multi-purpose facility
For almost 50 years, the community has been turning to its former main recreational attraction, which was a hockey arena space that offered limited services.
“Without having a central physical location, it was difficult to make the programs work as best they could. So, there really wasn’t anything,” said Chris Martin, who organized the fundraising campaign for the centre.
“I kept hearing the needs for … more options for the youth, more options for the seniors, places to go,” added Nowak.
In 2019, the aging arena shut down as a result of unsafe structural conditions. The township council took this as an opportunity to build something new, with the help of community consultations, local fundraising and provincial funding.
The project received $16.1-million from the province, more than $2.5-million in fundraising and the remaining balance will be offset through investments.
Health and youth services
The Woolwich Community Health Centre, which offers primary care services to people in the townships, will be relocating its Wellesley Clinic to the new recreation centre. It’ll be funded separately from the centre.
“The community is growing, so we’d like to be able to increase the capacity of our existing primary care team and have it work more effectively and efficiently,” said Rosslyn Bentley, the executive director of the health centre.
The new space will allow the clinic to take on up to 1,000 new clients.
Bentley said this will also allow the clinic to use the centre’s recreational facilities to promote mental wellness and holistic health, encouraging clients to participate in activities such as walking the trails.
“It allows us to grow … with the community, but also be more multi-disciplinary in the services that we provide,” Bentley said.
Meanwhile, Lisa Parker, community health worker at the Wellesley Township Community Health Centre, said the new centre is going to be crucial for the wellbeing of youth in the community.
“Youth were saying that they’ve always wanted a space to gather. And I think now it’s as important as it ever has been in the COVID era to have space for youth to be able to meet together,” she said.
The community hosted a groundbreaking ceremony earlier this month, with the centre’s completion date slated for next year.