MOUNT WILLIAM – The first full year of operation for the Pictou County Wellness Centre was marked with a special dedication from members of the Sobey family.
Debbi and Frank Sobey unveiled a modern sculpture, designed by local artist Chris Morrison and built by MacGregor Custom Machining, during the Welless Centre’s annual general meeting Tuesday.
“Since its first conception, there has been talk of an art piece being included as part of the centre. Today, thanks to the generosity of Frank and Debbi Sobey, a piece of art, created by a local artist and manufactured by local hands becomes part of the Wellness Centre,” said John Hamm, former premier of Nova Scotia and campaign co-chair for the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
Frank Sobey said the sculpture is contemporary compared to other pieces of public art in the county, but such art plays an important role in bringing a community together.
“Statues, paintings or sculptures invite us to gather, pause and reflect and see things differently and it causes us to engage in conversation and to agree or even to disagree,” he said. “It can help expand our appreciation of art or even feel more attached to a community or to a facility. “
He said Morrison and MacGregor’s, particularly Randy Sutherland who built the sculpture over a five-month period, took on the project as “labour of love” and did well to connect the sculpture to the Wellness Centre and all that it embodies.
Debbi Sobey said the sculpture has also been appropriately named, Brigh, which is Gaelic, meaning strength and substance.
“There could be no confusion in the word we wanted to portray,” she said. “Human spirit is like a muscle. It grows and develops as it is utilized. You cannot know its true strength until it is tested. It is impossible to know its true substance until it is pushed the very limit. Strength and substance, what noble attributes. Attributes that can only enhance mind, body and spirit.”
Sutherland said the sculpture will stand the test of time and weather since it is made of steel that is crisscrossed and honeycombed on the inside to make it strong. He said it has been welded to a stainless steel base three feet below the ground and this is bolted to a cement base.
“Chris made a miniature sculpture to copy,” he said. “The idea was to make that bigger. It was trial and error. It was welded, ground out and smoothed. The idea would never had the opportunity if I didn’t work for MacGregor’s. Andy gave me free range and gave me what I needed. I didn’t think it would take five months. This was free form. I literally bent pieces and if didn’t look right I would take it down and do it again. There was a lot of trial and error.”
In addition to the sculpture unveiling, the Pictou County Wellness Centre’s board of directors also sealed a time capsule in the lobby of the centre that will be open in 2062.
The time capsule was filled with items of interest that are from Pictou County and reflective of events and happenings that occurred during this time, from a real estate guide, to newspapers, Wellness Centre opening program, town pins, 100th anniversary of the city club key chain, Weeks hockey jersey, promotional rack cards and lapel pins from the region.
During the opening of the annual general meeting, New Glasgow Mayor Barrie MacMillan was nominated as the new chair of the board of directors for the Wellness Centre and former chair, Ron Baillie, will take on the role of vice-chair. The existing board, made of mayors and the warden from Stellarton, Pictou, Pictou County, Trenton and New Glasgow will continue to be part of the board of directors.
Baillie said the Wellness Centre continues to be an important community economic development asset for the region and during its first year of operation, the board and staff have made “great strides” to increase the use of the centre, especially with ice rentals.
“This is due in large part to the municipal leadership demonstrated by the Town of New Glasgow to close the John Brother MacDonald Stadium for the greater good and to support this important regional asset,” he said.
Baillie said there are still too many ice surfaces in Pictou County and the board hopes other communities will also consider closure if their buildings are in need of capital investments to improve aging infrastructure.
The Wellness Centre has been operating in the red since it opened a year and half ago.
The centre is budgeted to run a $600,000 deficit after finishing about $450,000 in the red after the first partial year of operation.
January was the peak month for ice rentals with about 70 per cent prime time utilization. December was one of the lowest months with 58 per cent prime time usage on the Sobeys ice surface and 63 per cent on the Bell Aliant ice surface. Prime time is Monday through Friday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. and the weekends. Prior to the John Brother closing the Wellness Centre had only reached about 42 per cent usage.
“During the past year, we have been seeing improvements in operational and energy system efficiencies and are working out the mechanics and growing pains of running a new regional facility,” he added.
Baillie said the centre has hosted some major events in the county, including Atlantic Canadian hockey tournaments, and it is also home to the Weeks Jr. A Crushers, Mariposa Skating Club, New Glasgow Minor Hockey and the Pictou County YMCA.
This summer, he said, it will host a major convention of the Maritime Fire Chiefs that is expected to bring 500 visitors to Pictou County.