The arena within the West Nipissing Culture and Recreation Centre will soon be renamed to honour the Labbé family.
The original request suggested naming the building solely after Marcel Labbé, a long-time councillor and tireless advocate for the facility. However, council members felt including Marcel’s wife, Jane, into the title would further honour the family who did so much to ensure the centre’s construction.
Jane was “really instrumental as well,” explained mayor Joanna Savage.
Therefore, the centre may be called the Marcel Labbé Arena, or the Marcel and Jane Labbé Arena. West Nipissing council is not sure which way to go, and plan to contact the Labbé family for their input.
It was 1957 when Marcel and Jane moved to Sturgeon Falls with three children in tow. Disappointed there were no facilities for children besides the river beach, Marcel become an advocate for recreational opportunities for children and families, explained Dianne Labbé, in a letter to council.
An arena was the goal, and Marcel campaigned to set aside public funds towards that goal. There was strong opposition, as “this was the first-time tax money would be used to fund recreation in Sturgeon Falls,” Labbé recalled.
Signs were made, “I Need an Arena” buttons began appearing on people’s clothes, and Marcel went door to door to foster support.
In 1963 Marcel Labbé won his first term on council, and the next year, an arena was built.
For 31 years Marcel helped to shape the community from his council seat. Much of his later efforts involved raising funds for a recreation hub, and once complete, “he was immensely proud of this achievement,” Dianne Labbé said.
On November 11, 2020, Marcel Labbé passed away at the age of 95.
Once West Nipissing council finalize the name of the arena, an official naming ceremony will occur soon after.
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca