Mark Coakley

Ainslie Wood resident Mark Coakley is pushing for a new rec centre at the site of Hamilton public board's Prince Philip school, which is set to close this year. (Sola DaSilva/CBC)

Hamilton’s Ainslie Wood community is taking steps to revitalize their community after losing the battle to keep Prince Philip Elementary School. Residents want to see an all-ages recreation centre built on the property now being used by Prince Philip school after it closes its doors in June 2014.

“The specific issue is about getting a recreation centre but there is a broader issue of community empowerment,” says Mark Coakley, one of the residents who started a petition to that effect on December 9. “The loss of the beloved elementary school under controversial circumstances is a real injury. We feel we’ve been walked all over. We have no post office, no library, we have no public school now.”

About 1,500 signatures have been collected and Coakley hopes this will show bidders there is strong community support for a recreation centre. The centre will provide a place for neighbours to meet, and kids can engage in sports like karate and swimming. The negative feelings caused by the upcoming school closure will be turned into something positive, he says.

Brian McHattie, councillor for Ward 1, supports the plan, but says it will be a difficult undertaking.

“I do hope that I can get support to buy the school but the bigger issue is after buying the school getting the funds to build the recreation centre,” McHattie said. “I have to convince my colleagues to assist me in purchasing the school for Qard 1, for Ainslie Wood.”

The school board has not set a price yet on the building, but McHattie estimates it could cost about $1.5 million. He says Ward 1 is prepared to put forward $500,000. The rest, he hopes, will come from the city.

Coakley says putting the petition together was a very collaborative process. Individual members of the community and volunteers canvassed the neighbourhood to collect signatures.

“I was born and raised in this community. My kids are here and I have no plans of going anywhere,” Coakley said.