Throughout the colourful and exciting years in and around Ponoka there have always been countless very enthusiastic ongoing community projects that have resulted in an exciting legacy of indoor and outdoor facilities that have always been appreciated and enjoyed to the fullest by thousands of people of all ages and walks of life.
One of the many early milestones of the rapid growth of both the Town and County of Ponoka during the 1950s to ’60s and ’70s was the completion and grand opening of the bright and spacious Ponoka Kinsmen Community and Recreation Centre at 5009-46th Avenue on Friday, June 6, 1964. The spectacular ceremonies attracted over 500 guests to the new facility and was highlighted with an official ribbon cutting and speech by the Honourable Ernest C. Manning, the Premier of Alberta, along with support and congratulations from a host of dignitaries and special guests from throughout the Province as well as officials of the Ponoka Kinsmen, Kinettes, K-40, Town and County of Ponoka and many others.
The spectacular events in salute of the new Kinsmen Centre included a jam-packed opening banquet, guides tours and a dance in the evening featuring five of the best orchestras in the country. On the following Saturday afternoon over 600 of the rambunctious younger generations of Ponoka and districts invaded the facility for a special ‘hall warming’ celebration, which included lots of entertainment and treats, and then wound down with a wing-ding dance for the teens in the evening.
Our growing town needed a new Community Centre
In 1959 the Town of Ponoka received a $37,000 grant from the Government of Alberta and the council immediately reached out to all of the local organizations as to ideas for what could be done with these funds. The Ponoka Kinsmen Club immediately recommended the construction of a large community hall, but nothing would be decided for four years.
At the time there was no doubt that this rapidly growing community of 4,400 people really needed an all purpose Community and Recreation Centre, with the largest hall available being two converted army huts that could only hold 250 guests and was hinted to be up for sale as a future business opportunity. There were also many new requests and opportunities for Ponoka to host large year-round recreational, social, cultural activities, conventions, motor shows, large and small meetings and many other events, with the availability of kitchen facilities that could serve up to 800 guests also a priority.
Not to be denied their ongoing passionate goals to help fill and promote the greatest needs of their community, the Ponoka Kinsmen Club avidly went ahead and secured plans for an 8,000 square foot multi-purpose building valued at a cost of $90,000, and then asked the Ponoka Town Council for the Government Grant to help with the costs of this massive project. After much discussion and negotiations between the Council and the very determined 40 young members of the Ponoka Kinsmen Club, the cost of the ambitious venture was reduced to $55,000.00 and the Town whole-heartedly released the grant money. In the midst of that final milestone agreement the Kinsmen also agreed to come on board with additional ongoing support for the building of a community indoor Swimming Pool and two paddling pools in the near future.
With a large local crowd on hand in 1963 Mayor Debs Nelson laid the corner-stone for the start of the construction of the much-hyped Ponoka Kinsmen Community and Recreation Centre and following are some of the highlights of the amazing community efforts and support that all came together to make that lofty dream become a reality at the fabulous grand opening on June 6, 1964 nearly 53 years ago.
• The Kinsmen Centre was built at a cost of about $10 a foot and came in with a cost saving of $20,000 thanks to the leadership, assistance and advice of Project General Contractor Norm Berg Construction along the way. The project would never have been completed on time and under budget without the amazing efforts of over 2,000 volunteer very energetic work hours by members of the Kinsmen Club and many others from in and around the community.
• The lady Kinettes enthusiastically supported their male counterparts throughout the construction process by wielding paint brushes, picking curtains and colors, and even putting on a fashion show to help raise some money.
• When the funding for the huge project was running a little short, members of the K-40 and others drove some 4,000 miles around the district and far beyond, stopping to shovel some 5,000 donated bushels of grain, which was sold to the local Feed Mills, with all the proceeds added to the project pot.
• Community support for the Kinsmen Centre was also overwhelming, with keen assistance and donations from the Ponoka Teen Town, Lions’ Club, Stampede Association, Gordon Manning, and many others, as well countless other exciting fund raising efforts by our local clubs, organizations, businesses and individuals. In the end the completion of this wonderful community owned and operated facility did not cost the Ponoka taxpayers a single cent, and is one of so many dedicated efforts over the years where everyone in our Town and County has pitched in and worked together to complete ambitious projects that have blessed and benefited our community then, now, and long into the future.