Sunday, July 19, 2009

2010 Groundbreaking Scheduled for New Sandpoint Recreation Center

Jamie Packer would have been the first to lace up his skates and take the ceremonial first step onto a new indoor hockey rink in Sandpoint.

But Packer did not live long enough to see that dream achieved. He died in a car accident four years ago.

Still, Packer’s name will live on in the new 225,000-square-foot Jamie Packer Centre.

In late June, developer Bruce Pedersen received approval from the Sandpoint City Council to build the recreation center, which will include a three-story parking structure. The recreation center will be built at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which relocated last year.

The idea for a recreation center had long been a dream of Packer, Pedersen’s brother- in-law, Rob Pierce, and other hockey enthusiasts. But when Pedersen bought a portion of the St. Joseph property, he didn’t have the center in mind.

“I bought it as an investment because of its proximity to the downtown core,” said Pedersen. But when he also became involved in Pierce’s project, Pedersen’s ideas changed.

“It hit me, why not here? (A recreation center) should be downtown, close to the schools,” said Pedersen, who earlier this year began the footprint studies for the project.

Pedersen is trained as a veterinarian and also is a co-founder of the book-sharing Web site Land development was an interest, but not in his background. So he sought advice from urban designers, and he said it became evident that it made sense to build the center on the proposed site.

Estimated to cost $40 million, Pedersen said the funding will primarily come from grants, sale of townhouses built on the site and matching funds from nonprofit organizations.

“This is new ground. Therefore we have a variety of sources,” Pedersen said. “It’s a lofty goal and I think we have the right team to pull it off.”

They expect to break ground in 2010 and to complete the project within two years.

But Pedersen emphasizes that it will be much more than an ice rink.

It could host other community events such as graduations or musical performances. The design also calls for the center to be sectioned off to accommodate multiple events simultaneously.

“Hockey is a part of it, but it is really about the youth,” Pedersen said. “Having a safe haven and building relationships with kids and helping instill all the values that are embedded during those formative years. It’s an investment in our future.”

Although the proposal met with some opposition, Pedersen said it was no more than what one would normally encounter.

“Ninety percent of the opposition came from within a block (of the center),” said Pedersen. “People are scared of the unknown, but we will be able to alleviate some of those fears.

“The walls have been defined and we’ve been given our parameters (by the Sandpoint City Council) but there is some malleability and we welcome input.”

One of the original community members who worked to get a rink in Sandpoint, Packer shared his vision with others and told of a similar facility in his Canadian hometown. Pedersen said they wanted to honor him by naming the facility after Packer and retaining the Canadian spelling of “centre.”

Packer worked as a golf pro at the former Hidden Lakes Golf Course and was known to many as a man who exemplified fitness, unity and community. Organizers say the programs housed within the new center will help stimulate the mind, body and spirit – just like Packer – to transform people’s lives.

“It will be the perfect environment to create more Jamie Packers,” Pedersen said.

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