Competitive classes started last week at the Oros Whistler Gymnastics Centre, although the official opening for most programs won't be until Thursday, Sept. 23, after all the club's new equipment has been installed. In the meantime the club has been using its old gear, which will be sold to the club in Pemberton for their future use.
The new equipment is arriving in two shipments, including one shipment of equipment that was used at the recent national championships in Kamloops. The second shipment will arrive this weekend and will be installed from Monday to Wednesday.
According to the coaches the new facility is making a big difference. The first and last half hour of every class used to be dedicated to setting up and then taking down an entire gym's worth of equipment - something that was hard on their gear and the coaches. They also never had the space to store a full-size spring floor and as a result Whistler's competitive gymnasts often traveled to clubs in the city to train on their spring floors before competitions.
"When we started last week the coaches noticed that the energy in the gym was so much better, partly because we could just walk in and coach without setting up. It was also nice having time to chat with parents instead of taking down the equipment," said coach Tami Mitchell.
"We think this facility is going to be a benefit to the entire community and not just the club. And we're excited to see how our competitive girls do this year with a full-time facility, because they always impressed us in our last facility which was not as well set-up."
The new club also has space for newer and better equipment, such as two in-floor trampolines, a tumble track and a foam pit that can be used to practice new tricks safely. There will be a full set of boys equipment for a start-up program, and a variety of other gear to create the kind of training environment that athletes of all kinds at the national level require.
As of last weekend the club had signed up more than 300 gymnasts and additional programs are being added for artistic gymnastics, trampoline and active start.
One new program is Passtime, which is essentially a coached drop-in program for parents and tots. Another is the new Short Circuit Gymfit and Kinderkid Playcare program, which will provide a gym experience from noon to 1 p.m. for kids under the age of six, while their parents take a circuit fitness class with a qualified instructor. Moving Mountains is helping subsidize up to half the cost for five- and 10-time passes.
As well, the club is offering more programs for older kids this year, including Acrix, Cheer, Acros Dance, Rhythmic, Sport Aerobics, the high school Storm Troupe and a Gymnaestrada team - the latter of which went to Winnipeg this year for nationals and qualified to represent Canada in the World Gymnaestrada Festival in Switzerland next spring.
For adults, in addition to the noon-hour Gymfit program, there will be new classes for gymnastics and trampoline.
The club also wants to hear from other sports organizations interested in the training facility for trampoline and gymnastics programs.
In addition, starting this month the gym will be open for birthday parties, coaching seminars, corporate team building programs and other workshops.
A complete rundown of programs and possibilities is posted at www.whistlergymnastics.com.
The OWGC is located in Cheakamus Crossing in the high performance centre, a legacy of the 2010 Games that was mainly funded by a $2 million grant from the Resort Municipality of Whistler on behalf of Whistler Gymnastics. Rona, an official Olympic sponsor, also contributed money and materials to the building.
The building, along with other Olympic venues, was handed over to the Whistler 2010 Sports Legacy Society in the spring.
For the new equipment, the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation provided a $210,000 grant, and the club has also received grants from Telus, Kidsport Whistler and Gymnastics B.C. for programming, as well as a Community Enrichment Grant from the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
There will be a public grand opening of the facility on Saturday, Oct. 23. More details to follow.