"I was so happy, because I had a new place."

That kind of reaction warms the heart of Jesse Bierman, the recreation manager at Behchoko's new Khon Go Cho complex.

During CBC's visit to the complex Thursday, eight-year-olds and nine-year-olds line up to say how much they love it. Once their school day ends, they make a short walk to the centre and throw themselves into Bierman's all-new after-school programming.

behchoko youth

Youth in Behchoko are all smiles at the community's new recreation centre. Since the $15 million building opened earlier this year, it's hosted judo classes, movie nights, and cooking lessons, among other activities. (CBC)

For the first time in 10 years — since the Tlicho community's old rec centre closed — the kids can learn to skate in an ice rink in their home community. They can also play in the gym, relax in a dedicated youth centre, or use the fitness studio.

There are judo classes, movie nights, cooking lessons and opportunities to learn traditional sewing. A hockey association is being formed and a volleyball tournament is planned.

"It's great. We have a lot of parental involvement," says Bierman, "and youth are coming in every day. We average 40 to 60 kids playing with all the games in the youth centre, skating around and playing in the gym."

Job creation

The $15 million centre, funded in part by federal and Tlicho government grants alongside cash from Dominion Diamond Corporation, experienced several delays before opening.

Jesse Bierman

For Jesse Bierman, the facility's recreation manager, 'seeing everyone coming over here laughing and smiling, participating, and seeing how many youth are actually using this facility is a really good feeling.' (CBC)

But with the doors now open, residents of all ages are determined to make the most of it.

The centre is providing employment for around 20 people, with up to eight working at any one time.

On top of that, local business FC Services is leasing part of the building to run a concessions stand.

The company's operations manager, Luke Grosco, says he made a point of hiring youth from the community to work in the new space.

"Now the youth will see these other youths working, so it'll encourage them to get work, find a job, and maybe become a rec coordinator such as Jesse (Bierman)," says Grosco.

Luke Grosco concession employees

Luke Grosco, left, stands with a group of youth learning to work the concession stand. (Ollie Williams/CBC)

"Ten years ago we had hockey teams, soccer teams, volleyball teams, whole tournaments and Arctic Winter Games tryouts. It's a very exciting time right now. The whole community is excited and the future looks good."

"It's very fulfilling," adds Bierman.

"Seeing everyone coming over here laughing and smiling, participating, and seeing how many youth are actually using this facility is a really good feeling."