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PHOTOS: New Port Coquitlam Community Centre packed for opening party

Plaque unveiled, ribbon cut at opening ceremony — an event that drew thousands of visitors.

They came by the thousands to be among the first.

And once inside the new Port Coquitlam community centre (PCCC), residents and visitors marvelled at the first phase of the city’s $132-million hub — a replacement of the old PoCo recreation complex.

For more than four hours yesterday (Tuesday), attendees at the opening reception toured the facility, laced up their skates for an inaugural spin on the Purple Arena rink, checked out books from the relocated Terry Fox Library, played board and video games, watched Mounties face off against the PoCo firefighters for a hockey game on the Green Arena ice and ate a free meal outside.

Mayor Brad West described it as “a historic day… kind of like Christmas.”

Construction began in 2017 on the 205,000-sq. ft. building and passersby watched as more than 800 tradespeople tore down the aging rec complex and created the new gathering place, West said in his speech before a packed crowd.

He predicted the new centre will be a catalyst as the downtown core evolves, adding a renewed vibrancy as the community gravitates to the modern, sleek complex to recreate and socialize.

“I think it’s a beautiful facility. It’s worth every penny,” MP Ron McKinnon told The Tri-City News, referring to the $12.5-million infrastructure grant and $1 million gas tax fund grant provided by the federal government for the project — the largest in the city’s history.

McKinnon, who is campaigning to retain his seat for the federal Liberals, added he would support PoCo if the city applied for additional funding (West told The Tri-City News he has lobbied for senior government money).

PoCo MLA Mike Farnworth said provincial cash “may be coming in the future” but he did not reveal further details, saying of the new facility: "It’s fabulous. It’s what the community has been has been waiting for a long time.”

While Terry Fox Library champion and former city councillor Michael Wright said he’ll be sad to see the old library go (it’s due to be razed in late October), the Fraser Valley Regional Library's (FVRL) CEO said he’s thrilled with the updated look.

Scott Hargrave said he helped the city design the new Terry Fox Library space, which is about the same size as the previous building but split over two levels. The square footage for a branch, he said, is based on a number of factors, including population and future growth rates.

Linking a library to a recreation complex offers a “one-stop shop” for residents, Hargrave said, noting the Langley FVRL branch also is tied to a civic building. “It’s a place where they can go for swim, skate, have a coffee and check out books. It’s all here.”

PCCC's leisure pool and fitness centre won’t be open until early next year while Phase 2 — which will include a spectator rink to be named after late city councillor and fire chief Jon Baillie, a minor sports coach — is set to open in 2021.

Besides the third ice sheet, once all phases are complete, there will be a gym, children’s area, more multi-purpose rooms, outdoor plazas, sports courts and underground parking.