BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: The Blackstock Recreation Centre and Arena, a longstanding heritage symbol and gathering place for the residents of Blackstock, was given an update and some TLC in recent months - along with a promise to retain and showcase it’s 101-year-old heritage as a troop billett and armory.
During the official re-opening on Thursday, July 24, a crowd of local residents and dignitaries enjoyed a tour of the facility.
Scugog Township’s Manager of Recreation and Culture Craig Belfry conducted a short ceremony, which included greetings from MP Erin O’Toole, a speech by a Trilium Fund representative, Mayor Chuck Mercier, Ward 4 Councillor Wilma Wotten, and Scugog Accessibility Advisory Committee Chair Edie Forsyth who presented a Tip of the Hat to the Blackstock Fair Board. Paul Arculus, local historian and author, gave a brief presentation about Richard Cartwright for whom the Township was named after.
New features include a new back-up generator which gives the hall capacity as an emergency shelter for over 200 people in times of flooding, fires or power outage, and a multi-purpose room which can be rented as meeting or presentation space, bringing increased revenue to the Township. As well, all doorways and washrooms in the building have been made accessible in both the arena and the main hall.
One major problem which sparked the renovation was the lack of a proper ventilation hood in the Blackstock Hall’s kitchen, which made the cooking or preperation of grease-laden foods (such as friers, griddles and pans) dangerous, limiting its use for banquet events.
The previous kitchen also lacked fire suppression equipment, which further increased the danger of grease fires and violated the Ontario Fire Code.
“We’ve installed a brand new line of ranges, ovens and coolers, including a new ventilation hood to bring everything up to code,” said Mr. Belfry. “People who use the hall can pretty well cook or prepare anything they would like to - I’d say that Blackstock has the nicest kitchen in Scugog Township!”
The updated venue now features a bright, clean and white astetic, with brick wall accents inside the entrance and main hall. The location is now much more versatile for decorations or events, and has brought the hall up to modern stylings, while retaining a nod to its heritage uses.
The original building began its life in 1913 as the Blackstock Armories, it has since taken life as a rifle range, the gym for Cartwright High School, a municipal office and the home of the Blackstock Fair.
The renovation project began with an estimated budget of $420,000, which was expanded by $60,000 last year for the purchase of the back-up generator.
“Along the way, we ran into a lot of challenges and problems that we didn’t know about, like several layers of lead paint on the original brick, and asbestos in the ceiling,” said Mr. Belfry. “It’s expected that a century-old building like this would have some issues, and we dealt with them safely and carefully.”
Due to the toxic substances used in the Blackstock Recreation Centre’s original construction and numerous updates through the decades, the majority of the interior had to be gutted. Unfortunately, Mr. Belfry explained, this included the original brick work.
“We tried several chemical peels and manual labour to clean the bricks up - but the contamination risk remained,” said Mr. Belfry.
The interior walls have been resurfaced with drywall and accents of reproduction brick, displaying the brass chandeliers that have hung from the tiered cieling since the early 1990s.
“We’re looking forward to a longevity of at least 30 years with this building,” said Mr. belfry. “The Blackstock Hall and Arena will continue to serve the residents of Scugog Township for many years after I retire.”
Mr. Belfry said that the next step for Blackstock will be replacing the out-of-date ice plant for the Blackstock Arena’s ice pad - noting that the freon coolant which the rink currently relies on will cease to be produced in 2020.
Meetings and a steering committee will be set up to bring in a modern ice plant, such as the one in Scugog Arena.
“This project will be good for community. I live here and my kids use the arena and hall, so I’m glad we’ve made it safer and given it a much needed refresh,” added Mr. Belfry. “It’s important to remember our heritage and keep it visible. We didn’t want to tear the building down, and I’m glad that we can continue to embrace the structure and keep it in-use.”