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Brantford - where recreational opportunities abound

© By Gene Chambers
  Harmony Square Trails, theatres, pools, paths, slides and slots - with over 1,000 acres of parkland, a major sports & recreation centre, a water park, an opulent theatre, a casino and a gorgeous river, Brantford enjoys a wealth of recreational opportunities for everyone, and I recently had the opportunity to tour some of these facilities.
     I begin at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, Brantford's major sports & fitness recreation facility. As I walk through the complex, many people are enjoying the 65 m. Olympic-sized pool, as well as the hot pool. There is also a sauna, a workout room, exercise room, 3 hockey rinks, a set of diving platforms and a 150 foot waterslide that begins on the dive platform, loops outside, and re-enters the building in the corner. A major $54 million expansion project is currently underway to greatly expand the facility. The first phase will provide an additional 25 m. pool, a fitness and dry land training centre and a therapeutic pool. Phase 2 includes 4 new arenas to replace the older 3, more change rooms, tennis courts, and a football field. I'm amazed at the scope of this expansion, which far exceeds the amount of recreational facilities in much larger cities.
     Located downtown, The Earl Haig Family Fun Park offers summer activities with a leisure pool, 60 foot waterslide, 600 foot lazy river, mini-golf, go-karts and a batter's box. Almost next door is the OLG Casino Brantford with over 500 slots and 55 gaming tables. It's also undergoing a major renovation, with a poker room and one gaming area completed and the other areas to be completed in stages over the next year. As I walk through the renovated areas I'm impressed by the brightness and spaciousness, and my knees certainly appreciate the extra cushioning courtesy of the new carpeting. Sanderson Centre Main Lobby
     For theatre lovers, the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts' opulence rivals anything Canada's largest cities have to offer. The Sanderson Centre first started in 1919 as the Temple Theatre, a vaudeville and silent movie house. Its ornate interior was originally designed by world famous Scottish architect, Thomas W. Lamb. The theatre's ceiling is a domed plaster roof suspended by cables from the exterior roof, and was ornately decorated in gold coloured trim and highlighted by a large mural just in front of the stage. Over the decades, its name changed three times during its long history as a movie theatre. The City purchased the theatre in 1986, and a major restoration has completely restored the interior to its original grandeur.
     Sanderson Centre Theatre Theatre manager Glenn Brown gives me a guided tour, and I am awed by the splendour of the ceiling. All aspects of the original decorations were either preserved meticulously or duplicated as closely as possible from photos of the original design. I am amazed that they were able to preserve all the intricate designs in the ceiling, and replicate the mural. Even the original stained glass exit signs were restored. The only concession to modernization was the replacement of the original 1600 seats with 1125 wider, more updated seating, but in keeping with the 1920's design theme. The theatre season runs from October to May, and offers a variety of entertainment from plays to comedy, family shows, and a wide spectrum of musical performances.
     Across the street, Harmony Square, was created by the city as a gathering and social focus area as part of their downtown renewal program. Strolling through the square, I see a central rectangular area slightly recessed below ground level, artfully surrounded by paving stone walkways, with benches and flowerbeds and a fountain, bordered on two sides by multi-story condos and apartments, with business outlets on the ground floor. I am impressed by the multi-use capabilities of this area which provides such a wide spectrum of entertainment. In the winter the recessed area becomes a skating rink, with its own Zamboni housed nearby. In summer the rink becomes a childrens' splash pool during the day, and drains to become an open seating area for night time shows. A raised area between the buildings on the east side transforms into a stage for the many entertainment events happening throughout the year.
     For outdoor enthusiasts, the Grand River meanders through the city, and provides many recreational opportunities. A trail route has been built along the river through the city linking up to both Hamilton and Cambridge, providing hikers and cyclists with safe, natural routes. As I walk part of the trail just below the Wilke's Dam, I spot a blue heron standing majestically in the river shallows, and manage to snap a couple of photos before it takes off. The dam has a lookout platform, and below it, I view several fishermen trying their luck along the river.
     My short stay ended all too quickly, but I know that I'll be coming back to spend more time to enjoy the many recreational opportunities this city has to offer.

Blue Heron  Grand River  Gretzky Centre Pool  Gretzky Centre Gym

Gene Chambers is an author of three secondary school textbooks on computer studies in data processing, and a travel writer.

Photo Credits
Gene Chambers, Sanderson Centre, Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre.

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About.com: http://search.about.com/fullsearch.htm?TopNode=/&SUName=www&terms=Brantford%20Ontario
Tourism Brantford: http://www.discoverbrantford.com/Pages/default.aspx
Grand River Conservation Authority: http://www.grandriver.ca/
Harmony Square: http://www.brantford.ca/residents/leisurerecreation/facilitylocations/HarmonySquare/Pages/default.aspx
OLG Brantford: http://www.olg.ca/olg-casinos/casino_facilities.jsp?gamesite=brantford
Sanderson Centre: http://www.sandersoncentre.ca/
Villages Festival: http://www.brantfordvillages.ca/
Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre: http://www.brantford.ca/residents/leisurerecreation/facilitylocations/wgsc/Pages/default.aspx
W.G. Expansion Project: http://www.brantford.ca/govt/projects/WGSCExpansion/Pages/default.aspx
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brantford
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Brantford

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