P.G. Gymnastics Club filled to capacity, hoping for major renovations

If there's a day the Prince George Gymnastics Club will remember this season, it might be the first day of September.

It was a Tuesday, and at 8:30 a.m. online registration for the fall session opened.

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Twenty minutes later, at 8:50 a.m., the club's staff realized one of the servers went down and people couldn't get through to register for one of 1,400 available spots, ranging from parent-tot classes to those in Grade 12.

People were lined up outside. The phone was ringing off the hook.

"Our staff did everything they could to get them into a class," said head coach Jodie Hinks. "We were pretty much full within a couple of hours. We're primarily full and we still have 300 on a wait list. We apologized to our members. Having that many people trying to register at once.... They were on their laptops, phones and tablets. We're usually very busy (on registration day) but this definitely seemed like something else was going on."

What was going on is the popularity of gymnastics is sky-high and parents wanted to register their children as soon as possible to reserve a spot in one of the club's programs. Hinks said the club has a high number of returning members with few people moving on.

Hinks believes it's due to the success of the sport during the 2015 Canada Winter Games at UNBC's Northern Sport Centre in February, where not an empty seat could be found.

Now that registration has been dealt with, the club is running at full tilt.

"We're super-excited," said Hinks. "From Monday to Sunday it's busy in here. There's not one day we're not crazy busy."

The club, which occupies the 16,000-square-foot Exhibition Sports Centre at the Prince George Exhibition Grounds, runs its programs on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The club is also a popular place for birthday parties and school programs.

Now, the only issue it faces is the lack of physical space.

"Now, we're just running out of room," said Hinks. "We're at capacity and we can't add any more."

Since the club leases the building from the city, at a City of Prince George council meeting on Sept. 14, club president Lucia Fendelet and board secretary Karla Gallop addressed the issue of making the space a little more comfortable.

Fendelet has served as president for 20 years, going back to the time when all four of her kids got involved at P.G. Gymnastics. She's always had a good rapport with the city.

"I started when there were 450 kids, there are 1,400 now," said Fendelet. "Our vision is to now expand the club and we want them (the city) to update the building on the outside and inside. Our vision is to make us (the space) bigger so we can accommodate the equipment and the 300 on the waiting list. We'd like to have 2,000 members."

The club has updated the space on its own, with bathroom upgrades (with help from the city), flooring, painting and digging out the floor for new trampoline pits.

Gallop said the club spent close to $100,000 in renovations last year alone, money that was raised through fundraising.

The result of that meeting was the city putting the building on a list for facility assessment to be completed next year.

"The feedback from council was very positive," said Gallop. "We got the feeling they want to keep us here and the structure (of the building) is very sound. Council is now looking at addressing our imminent needs such as heating and the doors (into the facility)."

A 2012 review found that the building was structurally sound, but the most pressing concern is heat since it's an uninsulated building and the doors don't properly seal, allowing in a lot of wind and even snow.

As for the immediate future, Hinks said they are looking at different ways of holding registration when it rolls around again in January - perhaps having pre-school athletes and school-aged athletes register on different days.

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