EDMONTON — A new community gymnasium in the small Alberta town of Ponoka was trashed and vandalized Saturday night.
The Ponoka Gymnastics and Trampoline Club was broken into on March 28. The inside was trashed: glass shattered, walls punched in and spray painted. There were swastikas and phrases like “white power” written on the gym’s walls.
Workers had just finished drywalling the facility on March 26.
“I felt sick to my stomach and angry and just at a loss for words,” said Nicole Grinnell, whose two children are enrolled in programs at the gym.
“I’m sure they’re going to be very disappointed that it’s going to be delayed now… It’s just a major setback.”
“The question ‘why’ just comes to mind.”
She doesn’t understand who would wreck the facility and hopes the RCMP find whoever is responsible.
“We would just like someone to be held accountable and to maybe help make this right, clean this mess up… the only victims here are the kids.”
“It’s totally devastating,” said Annette Fenske, the Gymnastics Club’s volunteer coordinator.
“We’ve been working at this for 10 years, fundraising like crazy and getting parent volunteers and stuff to work in here and then to have this happen? Just totally devastated.”
The club had received financial support from area businesses and other sponsors and had planned to open by the end of April or early May. Now, the opening could be as late as the fall.
“It’s a big setback to have to kind of start all over,” said Fenske, “when the wind has kind of been taken out of your sails.”
Her three children went through gymnastics programming as kids and have also coached. Recently, they volunteered time to help build the new facility.
Barry Groves, president of the Ponoka Gymnastics and Trampoline Club, found out about the vandalism early Sunday afternoon.
“I’m very hurt, very disappointed.”
He described seeing the damage in person and reading the words painted on the walls “traumatic.”
“Pretty shocking. I haven’t seen that stuff, personally, for a lot of years. It’s surprising that’s still out there.”
Groves said it’s too soon to say how much the vandalism will cost or exactly how much it will delay the opening.
“The community has really rallied around building the building, raising money for the building, it’s a big deal for us.”
He hopes the owner of the old facility might be able to let the club use that space until the new building can open.
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In a post on the gym’s Facebook page, officials call the incident “sickening.” They are urging anyone with information to call Ponoka RCMP.
“This is going to be a place for our kids to play and learn,” the post reads. “What kind of people would do this!?
“We will also be having a cleaning bee to get the building back in shape so if any members of the community are interested in lending a hand stay posted for dates and times. Thank you.”
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