A north Edmonton senior centre celebrated its grand re-opening Friday after a roof collapse due to heavy snow in January 2011.
In addition to reconstructing the roof, the Northgate Lions Seniors Recreation Centre building also underwent a major facelift to improve accessibility and retrofit aging infrastructure.
“It’s a far cry from where it was 18, 19 months ago when we were shoving them out the front door as the roof was coming down,” said Maggie Nichols, facility manager for the centre.
During the reconstruction, classes were held at other available centers in the neighbourhood to maintain some normalcy, but members were happy to be back Friday, said Hugh Newell, president of the North Edmonton Seniors Association (NESA), which manages programming and assists with events.
“The hugs exchanged, the tears of sheer joy told me how much this place matters in the lives of members,” Newell said at the opening.
Mayor Stephen Mandel was on hand to welcome about 360 members back into the centre, including the Northgate Choralaires, who were rehearsing in the auditorium when the roof started to collapse.
“This is a hub of the community; a special place for special people,” Mandel said.
Sandi Ollenberger, the director of the Choralaires, recounted to the crowd the moment she realized the roof was coming down.
“I looked up, I saw the t-bars bending and said ‘we have to get out of here right now’. … but because we had just started a practice, I thought ‘we can’t waste the whole afternoon’ so we just headed over to McClure (United Church) and continued on, ” she said.
It cost $5.8 million to reconstruct the centre, with most costs covered under insurance. The City pitched in $680,000 and NESA added $162,000.