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Fort Smith opens new track

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fort Smith has celebrated the official opening of a brand-new track. Hundreds of people gathered for the Sept. 16 launch, including a special guest former Canadian Olympian Diane Jones-Konihowski.

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Canadian Olympian Diane Jones-Konihowski, left, stands on the new Fort Smith track with Mayor Janie Hobart. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

"Technically, this is a world-class track," Jones-Konihowski said, noting it is accurate to 400 metres and the synthetic rubber surface is amazing to run on.

"So it's going to be very, very fast," she said.

Jones-Konihowski should know tracks because she competed in pentathlon, winning gold medals at the Commonwealth and Pan-American Games, and represented Canada at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics.

At the opening of the Fort Smith track, she represented her husband, former CFL player John Konihowski, who was a project consultant.

Mayor Janie Hobart praised the community effort that created the track, noting many groups provided assistance including Aurora College, the Town of Fort Smith, the GNWT, Salt River First Nation, elementary school students who raised $2,000 and local businesses which offer reduced rates and in-kind help.

"So the community made this facility," Hobart said.

In particular, she singled out Denise Yuhas, the constituency worker for Thebacha MLA Michael Miltenberger, for her efforts.

"Denise Yuhas has been truly amazing," said the mayor, noting Yuhas made the dream of many a reality.

Yuhas explained the project began as a suggestion at a constituency meeting five years ago.

"Sometimes it felt like herding cats, but it all came together," she said of the five-years of effort to see the track completed. "People really from all quarters saw the benefit that this could bring."

The new facility, which includes areas for such things as javelin, high jumping, pole vaulting and other sports, is estimated to be a $800,000 piece of infrastructure, which will also include a soccer field inside the track.

Yuhas said the single largest investment was not until the final stage of installing the synthetic rubber track. That was done with $250,000 committed by the previous town council through the Community Capacity Building Fund, which was established by the GNWT with federal money.

"In the upcoming months, we will be completing this area," Hobart said, adding she hopes it will be able to host large-scale events, perhaps even the NWT Track and Field Championships.

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