June 24th, 2024

Veiner Centre officially opens to happy seniors

By Gillian Slade on July 25, 2018.

NEWS PHOTO GILLIAN SLADE
More than 200 people gathered to celebrate the official grand opening of the Veiner Centre Tuesday afternoon.


gslade@medicinehatnews.com 
@MHNGillianSlade

The tradition of a seniors’ centre in Medicine Hat continues with the official opening of the “new” Veiner Centre Tuesday afternoon.

More than 200 people gathered for the celebration, and the sun was shining.

“I think it’s fabulous. It will serve today’s seniors and those to come,” said Linda Hygard, a member of the Seniors Citizens Advisory Committee.

She says the facility is innovative, multifunctional and, once inside, it becomes clear all the requests and desires expressed during the planning stages are reflected in the finished building.

“We’re home, everybody,” SCAC chair LaVerne Noble exclaimed to those gathered, calling the building “a wonderful accomplishment.”

Noble also spoke of requests made in the planning stages and the pleasure of seeing those incorporated.

“Come on back to the Veiner Centre, everybody,” Noble said to loud applause from the crowd. “It’s beautiful, a treasure.”

The process to reach this stage spanned five years, during which time several city council, SCAC and building committee members changed.

“History has been honoured. It is a community hub,” said former councillor Les Pearson. “Everyone grows old, and the Veiner Centre is a place for everybody.”

Loneliness can detrimentally affect health, with seniors particularly vulnerable, and the centre is the antidote, said Pearson.

It is 43 years since the first Veiner Centre officially opened on Dec. 12, 1975, with then mayor Ted Grimm, and former mayor Harry Veiner cutting a red ribbon across the entrance. The building cost $800,000, with the province and the city sharing expense.

Veiner had donated the land.

The province also contributed 80 per cent of the operating costs through its preventative social services program.

Mayor Ted Clugston said Veiner’s boots are large ones to fill. He wondered if Veiner had any idea this building would be his lasting legacy. A legacy that has paid “rich dividends over time,” he said.

Public services commissioner Karen Charlton recalled working in the original building in 1977. Her boss at the time was Bob Wanner, now the MLA for Medicine Hat.

Wanner recalled details of the first centre and said the facility is a “place to connect and build relationships.”

“Hats off to all those involved to make the Veiner Centre a huge part of Medicine Hat again,” said local MLADrew Barnes.

MP Glen Motz congratulated the city on the investment it has made in the community.

There were a number of options on the table, studies done and open houses held ahead of reaching this opening.

An initial inspection of the structural integrity of the flood-damaged Veiner Centre was inconclusive. Many felt a new building in a new location was the only option to ensure it was not vulnerable to flooding again. However, berms have since been built to protect the area.

In March 2014, council approved a site on College Drive for a new building, but when plans were unveiled in August 2015, it came with a price tag of $19.9 million and was subsequently rejected.

About a year later the plans had been modified with an estimated cost of $15.6 million.

The option of returning to the Veiner Centre, either temporarily or permanently, was also in the cards.

Sept. 21, 2015, council rejected a new building on College drive and elected to return to the Veiner Centre.

An official ceremony on May 2, 2017 marked the start of major renovations and an expansion to the old building. Graham Construction was charged with the remediation of about 1,400 square metres on the main floor of the existing building, demolishing the eastern half and adding another 600 square metres.

The project finished on time and on budget at $11.95 million.

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