A bigger, better St. James civic centre

1,000-strong St. James Assiniboia +55 centre to merge with it in its renovated Ness Street building

The popular, youth-oriented St. James Civic Centre on Ness Avenue will soon have a new look and new identity. With some $7.8 million from the city and the province (sharing equally) now on the table, the first of three invitations has gone out to developers to submit proposals for the redevelopment and expansion of the centre, including an addition which will house a new 55-plus seniors centre. The St. James seniors centre is committed to raising the remaining, still-undetermined amount – perhaps in the $2 million range.

The 1,000-member seniors group has been pressing for several years to have its own shared space in the recreation facility. In January, concurrent with the announcement of the provincial grant, the seniors launched their own fund-raising campaign; they today have some $250,000 already committed by the Winnipeg Foundation, along with some early member donations.

The civic centre, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has been a hub of activity in St. James since it first opened. Its hockey rink is in use day and night, seven days a week, with many city leagues renting ice time. Its swimming pool is busy every day, with seniors, competitive swimming, a swimming club and lessons and leisure activities for the kids.

Grant Nordman, who has ties to both centres, figures weekly visits to the Ness operation would currently number in the hundreds, “thousands in the course of a month.”

Connie Newman, who heads the seniors’ funding committee, says the civic centre will now expand by 8,000 to 10,000 square feet at the front of its present building. “Our seniors will be sharing the enlarged auditorium; we’re building on some office space, multi-purpose meeting rooms and a new kitchen to be shared by all.” There’s also the possible addition of a viewing area to the pool.

For a long time, Nordman says, the centre’s recreational facilities have been targeted to youth. “Now we’re adding a permanent mature adult environment to the overall complex. It’s going to truly be an age-friendly facility.

St. James Civic Centre is run by the city, under the direction of the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres, made up of the presidents of all community centres (90 of them before a handful of recent amalgamations). Two city departments – the property, planning and development committee and also protection and community services – are in charge. The city will oversee the upcoming construction.

Construction is expected to start next year and continue through much of 2018. No one knows just what developers will find when they get below the existing surfaces of the 1966 building.


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