BY BILL PHILLIPS
Jon LaFontaine has been around the Roll-A-Dome almost all his life.
As a teenager, he played and helped organize sports there. That involvement continues into his adult life and now, more than 20 years since he first stepped into the facility, he is in a position to help out the Prince George landmark that has given so much to him over the years.
LaFontaine has taken over the lease at the building and is hoping to return the building to some of its former glory. The fate of the aging building has been in up in the air over the past couple of years as pressure has been brought to bear on the shareholders to sell the building and develop the property at the intersection of Highway 97 and Highway 16.
“The history has been undecided as to what is going to happen here,” he said. “They’ve got a good support group of people who have said they want to keep it around. The dome society has stepped up and I felt it was a good opportunity after we hosted an indoor soccer tournament here, which was quite successful.”
That tournament was called Roll-A-Dome Revival and its success led to LaFontaine looking at taking over the lease.
“I want to be able to keep this around for my kids and other youth to enjoy using for recreational activities,” he said. “There’s never enough recreational stuff to do in the city.”
With a huge bank of roller skates just off the entrance and the name Roll-A-Dome, one might think that it’s all about roller skating. It’s also home to the Rated-PG Roller Girls, but there are a multitude of local groups who call the Roll-A-Dome home. In addition to the roller derbies, ball hockey and indoor soccer call the Dome home. The Prince George Brain Injury Group does some of its recreational work at the facility, Hospice House does at lot of fundraising at the Dome, the alpine ski teams set their trampolines up in the facility as part of their dryland training, youth lacrosse uses the facility, as do local schools.
“It’s almost at full capacity,” he said. “I want to do what I can to keep it around. I want to show Prince George that it belongs here and it’s an asset to Prince George.”
LaFontaine’s plan, with the help of many volunteers who have stepped forward to help, is to spruce up the facility. He is also looking for some other backers, corporate or private, who will help with some of the necessary repairs and upgrades needed.
“It is an older building, there’s no doubt about it but with a good support group it wouldn’t take much to get this place looking like it belongs in Prince George,” he said.
Some of that work is already under way and EECOL Electric has already stepped up and LED lighting will soon be installed.
One of the key items, however, is to keep the facility an affordable place for youth in the community.
“To keep this as an affordable recreation centre in Prince George is the ultimate goal and not have it in the limbo of ‘is it staying, is it going?’” he said.
LaFontaine works for the City of Prince George and will continue his job there while managing the Roll-A-Dome. A big part of his decision to take over the lease was that manager Al Work, who has run the facility for more than 35 years, will stay on.
“He’s the face of the Roll-A-Dome,” he said. “I’m lucky to have someone mentor me and will try to build off what Al has done.”
The facility currently has a three-year lease and LaFontaine will take that time to, hopefully, get the facility back in shape.
“I’m new to the business,” he said. “Lots of learning curves, but I’m not new to the Roll-A-Dome. I’ve been coming here since I was 15 years old.”
He said the facility, located at the end of Recreation Place next to tennis courts and the golf and country club, is really a recreation centre and he hopes to keep it that way.