For more than 40 years, the G.H. Dawe Community Centre has provided recreation and cultural opportunities for Red Deer and Central Alberta. With it being in operation for four decades, it has given parents the opportunity to skate with their children on the same rinks they grew up on and swim in the same pools where they learned to swim.
While the Centre has maintained its young-at-heart feel when you walk through the doors, it was beginning to show its age, which precipitated a major and exciting expansion and renovation project that will bring the facility to modern standards by early 2023.
At the centre of the $44 million project are the arenas; the existing surface is being upgraded to NHL standards, with a second surface being introduced. Other enhancements include an additional north entrance to the building, improved traffic flow, more parking, upgraded fitness spaces, and an outdoor spray park for little ones—officially known as Woody’s Spray Park thanks to a personal donation from Woody Paylor, a long time community supporter.
“The G.H. Dawe Community Centre is an important asset in our community that has served Red Deer and area since 1982,” says Curtis Martinek C.E.T. Facilities and Asset Management Superintendent for The City of Red Deer. “This recreation facility is a hub for neighbourhood connection, active living, family activities and sport programming. The overall amenity is a shared asset through partnerships with two schools: G.H. Dawe School and St. Patrick’s Community School as well as the Red Deer Public Library.”
The facility underwent its first phase of renovations in 2007 to modernize spaces and ensure the amenities met the needs of Red Deerians. This renovation included upgrades to the existing 25 metre 4-lane lap pool, along with two new waterslides, a leisure pool, a splash pool and spray features, a hot tub, steam room, sauna, as well as a small fitness area, fitness studio, three activity rooms, gymnasium, food services space and a child-minding area.
In 2016, Council approved Principles to Guide the Development of Future Ice. The GH Dawe Community Centre location presented the possibility to achieve economies of scale in operations with twin ice operations that could be combined with operations of a multi-purpose recreation facility.
In 2020, Red Deer City Council approved the capital construction budget following completion of the facility design by Group2 Architecture Interior Design. Funding for the project was also received from the Government of Canada through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) grant and the Alberta Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI). In the spring of 2021, CANA Group of Companies was successful in its bid to supply Construction Management Services to the project, with shovels hitting the ground that same year.
“Having twin arenas in Red Deer’s north offered opportunity for a geographical balance of amenities for our community and was also an attractive location with proximity to other amenities that would support tournament hosting, such as hotels, restaurants and access to Highway 2,” says Martinek. “The existing arena at the GH Dawe Community Centre did not conform to NHL dimensions for competitive play, had antiquated operating systems, and required modernization to change rooms and support spaces.”
The new arena design provided a natural footprint to support the addition of fitness amenities on the second level. Like other successful recreation centres, the addition of expanded fitness spaces at the GH Dawe Community Centre provides affordable and accessible active living service delivery that compliments the overall operation of the multi-purpose facility.
Precast and steel started to arrive early in 2022, and the super structure was completed by July. The facility was weather tight by October and crews have been hard at work on the interior of the facility with rough-ins, framing, masonry work, arena slab preps and pours and are now into the finishing stages of the project. To keep the project on time and on budget, materials were ordered early to mitigate the risks of market volatility and product availability.
“However a rainy spring outside of anyone’s control did cause a four-week impact to the overall schedule. Even with the delays, we are on track to open the expansion area at the Dawe late February 2023. The facility is really starting to take shape as CANA and their trade partners work to complete the project,” says Martinek.
Once in full swing, The City is eager to welcome back the 400,000 annual visitors that used the amenities pre-pandemic. Naturally, the last three years have had significantly reduced traffic with the decommissioning of the old arena coupled with extended facility closures (i.e. both pandemic and construction related), but visitation rates are expected to exceed pre-pandemic rates once everything is up and running.
In February 2023, The City is looking forward to welcoming the community to the Dawe expansion area with a Rediscover Dawe event. Woody’s Spray Park will open a few months later with an official grand opening of the spray park in the Summer of 2023. Details of the events will be released closer to the dates.
For more information, please visit www.reddeer.ca/recreation-and-culture/recreation/recreation-facilities/gh-dawe-community-centre