Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Paul Reynolds Community Centre

Having grown up in the East End of St. John's, I can remember many Summer afternoons spent hanging out at the Wedgewood Park Recreation Centre. I remember attending birthday parties in the gym, taking swimming lessons in the pool, and playing tennis with friends on the outdoor courts. The centre served its purpose in providing a place for the community to come together, but it was dated and posed challenges even when I was a child.

We have moved into a new era, and with that begins a new legacy in Wedgewood Park. The old centre closed and was torn down in September, 2016. Construction began on the new facility in June, 2014 and was completed just recently. The Paul Reynolds Community Centre held its grand opening on Thursday, June 8th, 2017 and is now open to the public!

The Paul Reynolds Community Centre is a modern facility that will serve the residents of St. John's for many years to come. The centre was the subject of numerous well-attended public consultations, and I was happy to know that creating a safe and inclusive environment was at the forefront of the planning process.

I recently had a tour of the facility, and am thrilled to share with you the inclusion and accessibility features of the new Paul Reynolds Community Centre!

There is accessible parking near the main entrance of the building, with an automated sliding door main entrance. The building features an open-concept lobby, elevator access to the second level, and accessible counter heights at the front desk. There are gender neutral, male and female change rooms and washrooms, and a private accessible change room.

We really enjoyed swimming together as a family when Brennen was younger, but as he got older and bigger, the change rooms in the city's public facilities were not able to accommodate our needs. At twelve years old, he is much too big for an infant change table, and there was nothing else available to us. At times, we would lay him on a bench out by the lockers and try to quickly dress him before he got too uncomfortable. It would take two of us, both Andrew and I, to keep him on the bench without falling, and it was entirely unsafe for everyone involved. Changing him became far too challenging for us, so we haven't taken Brennen swimming now in quite some time. We believed that even though he enjoyed the water so much, Brennen would not be able to swim because the facilities here were not accessible to him.

Natalie Godden, Manager of Family & Leisure Services with the City of St. John's was excited to show me the private accessible change room in the new Paul Reynolds Community Centre, and for good reason! The room features an adult size hydraulic change table that lowers to the floor, and has a weight capacity of 440 lbs. A ceiling lift, grab bars for the toilet (LR and RH access), and a large wheel-in shower. I got a little emotional at this part of the tour, just thinking about how something like this can have a profound effect on the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. This change room means that families like mine will now be able to swim together, to have fun together, and to be fully included in recreational activities just like everybody else. It means that my son, and other individuals with disabilities can participate in activities with a sense of belonging in a community that welcomes and supports all of its members. (This is perhaps our greatest concern as parents of children with special needs - that while we work hard to overcome challenges and make appropriate accommodations, we know that there is no guarantee they will feel included.) 

The 74,00 sq ft. facility houses two pools: a 25 metre lane pool, two water slides, and a warmer-water leisure pool with a zero depth "beach entry", lazy river and splash pad.

To enter the lane pool, individuals with disabilities or mobility restrictions can avail of the Poolpod, which is located on the side of the pool just as you enter the Aquatic Centre.

The Poolpod is a multi-award winning swimming pool platform lift that was developed for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. It is the first of its kind in North America, and is transforming pool access, offering a more independent and dignified way of entering the water than the traditional sling and hoist. The Poolpod can be used either standing, or with a submersible wheelchair that allows users to transfer from their own wheelchair in the privacy of the accessible changing room.

There is a 1,500 square foot dedicated children's area that will host a childcare and after-school program as well as summer day camps and playgroups. I was more than happy to see a collection of dolls with various adapted equipment such as a wheelchair, walker, helmet, and a guide dog. (We have come a long way since I was a kid!)

There is also a 1,500 square foot senior's area, a dedicated youth room, a music room, several large multi-purpose spaces, and a full-sized 6,700 square foot gymnasium just waiting to be explored by kids of all ages who are eager to play!

The Paul Reynolds Community Centre is a first class facility providing state-of-the-art recreation, leisure and sports opportunities that are inclusive of all community members.

We are very excited to be able to take our son swimming again! Not only is it one of his favourite activities, but it also has therapeutic value for him. For Brennen, as for many individuals with disabilities, swimming is an opportunity to feel freedom through weightlessness. The warm water facilitates muscle relaxation, stimulates body awareness, and improves circulation. We know that swimming is good for Brennen, but getting him into the water is not only beneficial, it is fun for him and for our whole family. Swimming is a right of childhood that no one should be excluded from. The new accessibility features of the Paul Reynolds Community Centre will open up access to pools for people with a range of requirements, and will be a great asset for increasing participation in our community, encouraging more people to be more active, more often.

The City of St. John's is committed to providing inclusive and accessible recreation and leisure services for all participants. For more information on inclusion and accessibility, visit or email

To see the full recreation swim schedule for the Paul Reynolds Community Centre, click HERE.

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