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Hundreds mark recreation centre's grand opening (5 photos)

'This project is for all of you, for your parents, for your kids, for your grandkids, for your grandkids’ kids ...' said Mayor Clarke at ribbon cutting ceremony

After nearly two years of stops and starts in programming amid the pandemic, the city finally hosted a grand opening for the long-awaited Orillia Recreation Centre.

Hundreds gathered to witness the ribbon cutting ceremony and to enjoy an evening of festivities with free swimming, bouncy castles, face painting, cake, burgers, and more. 

The grand opening is the culmination of several decades of effort from residents, city staff, politicians and others to make the new recreation centre a reality. 

Mayor Steve Clarke declared the recreation centre an important achievement of numerous people and organizations working together over the years. 

“Many say it took over 30 years, some say 35 years, some say even say 40 years to realize the vision,” Clarke said. “This project is for all of you, for your parents, for your kids, for your grandkids, for your grandkids’ kids, and certainly for the roughly 2,000 people daily that are presently using the facility.”

On top of the city’s existing amenities, the recreation centre makes Orillia an attractive place for new residents and businesses, Clarke said. 

“It is already helping to recruit business owners and businesses to Orillia, medical professionals and families also coming to Orillia,” Clarke said. “This was a 36- acre brownfield site. If it wasn't for you, it would most assuredly sit dormant for decades to come.”

The recreation centre has already had a positive impact on the community, said a local high school athlete. 

“During the height of COVID, all sports were not allowed to practise in high school gyms because of restrictions that were specific to schools,” said Orillia Suns athlete Sophia Columbus. “However, we were allowed to practise at the rec centre, and without this building I don't know where my Suns team would be or if I would be even still playing volleyball.”

Resident Will Davis, who was part of the West Street Makes Sense campaign to bring the recreation centre to a central location, said he previously only dreamed of such a facility in Orillia. 

“We love it,” Davis said. “We’ve been here since day one as members.”

“We wanted it close to downtown, we wanted it central, and we also want to make good use of the brownfield. It was land that wasn't being used at all.”

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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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