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PRRA Director speaks at Rotary luncheon

Shelley Cook

Jennifer Sarna, executive director of the Portage Regional Recreational Authority (PRRA) was the special guest speaker at Tuesday's Rotary Club luncheon.

Sarna kicked off her presentation by telling the Rotary Club about the changes and developments that the PRRA has undergone since it stopped being a department of the city. Though both the city and RM still fund the PRRA, Sarna said it is growing and developing as a non-profit business with a vision to encourage community-wide participation in recreational sports.

"Another area that we're working on as a young organization and business is identity and how we fit into providing municipal services at a subsidized rate," she said, adding that the committee is always looking at areas they can break even while still making programs accessible and affordable for all.

"Ultimately our role is to develop partnerships and work in unity with other organizations offering recreation and services in the community," she said.

Sarna described 2010 as a year of trial and error for the PRRA. The opening of the PCU Centre on February 27 last year was met with an eight month delay that saw different areas of the centre open at different times. Though the original goal was to have the centre fully operational by December 31, 2009, the main arena was opened for the 2010 Power Smart Winter Games, followed by the Vitera Fitness Centre that was opened on April 1, the pool opened on August 16, and finally the second arena last September.

"We're still working towards understanding a full year of operational costs and revenues," she said.

Some of the new initiatives that the PRRA undertook in 2010 were program development and grant opportunities and administration. Sarna said programs like the participant attendant leisure program and the expanding walking program are some of the initiatives that have been well received by Portage residents. She said that fitness programs have also been successful, however admits that finding qualified instructors has been challenging.

"We are working on offering leadership courses to help raise that skill set in the area," she explained.

Other popular programs are the PRRA Kids Club after school program and the aquatics program, which Sarna said has skyrocketed since it was introduced.

Sarna also spoke of a number of special events that the PCU Centre has hosted, such as the PCI safe grad and convocation, the world under 17 hockey championships, and a major movie production.

In the planning stages for 2011, Sarna said the committee believes that the next operating year will be one of stabilization and planning towards sustaining recreational services as a not for profit business.

The fall/winter active guide will be distributed in late summer. Many of the complementary programs, like the public skate, will remain free of charge in 2011.

"We continue to grow and learn how to treat this facility like a multiplex," she said. "There aren't many examples like this in Manitoba."

Sarna has worked in Portage for 10 years, first as the community service manager for the city until 2007 when she was promoted to her current position.

Tuesday was the fourth time Sarna has been invited to speak to the Rotary Club.

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