Thorndale's new community centre now open (with COVID restrictions)

·2 min read

Almost a year to the day after the Thorndale community centre burned down, the new one has opened its doors — to only 10 guests at a time.

The $2.8-million Thorndale Lions Community Centre, rebuilt in the small town just northeast of London, began welcoming patrons in limited capacities Wednesday.

Construction was almost complete in January, but the COVID-19 lockdown meant the site sat empty.

“The worst part was having this gorgeous, nice building that everyone had been anticipating and then it just sitting empty so no one can enjoy it,” said Thames Centre Deputy Mayor Kelly Elliott.

“It is good that we do have it available for what we can offer, even if just to go for a walk.”

But the pandemic has put a bit of a damper on the opening, temporarily halting most programming and any large events.

Groups can rent the meeting rooms and gym, but there’s a strict 10-person capacity due to COVID-19 limits. No scrimmages can be played.

The gym is open to walkers each morning from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and masks must be worn inside.

Other programming run by the seniors centre, like pickleball, is also starting up this week.

“As restrictions lift, we’ll add even more programming,” Elliott said.

The new centre is double the size of the old one, which burned down Feb. 24, 2020.

An additional $250,000 is being invested in the grounds this spring, including redoing two baseball diamonds and a soccer field and building a fieldhouse with washrooms, storage and a concession stand.

Despite the rebuild being finished in less than a year — amid a pandemic, no less — Elliott noted the project had been in the works for about five years, with officials soliciting community feedback and drafting plans even before the fire.

She said she’s looking forward to programming ramping up at the centre, and the new building becoming the cornerstone of Thorndale’s community, just as the old one was.

“It truly was a community effort in building it,” she said.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press