The District of Kitimat is looking into a proposal to change the name of the Tamitik Arena to recognize former mayor George Thom.
Presenting the proposal to change the name of the arena to the George Thom Arena, retired Kitimat fire chief Bill Dawson said it was only fitting that the arena be renamed, considering Thom had accomplished more for Kitimat than any other elected official he was aware of.
“I thought of other options to recognize mayor Thom’s achievements and service,” said Dawson. “However, nothing else but naming the arena after him would do the mayor justice.
He said there was a precedent set in Kitimat for naming buildings, streets and facilities after distinguished members of the community, including the Sam Lindsay Swimming Pool after mayor Sam Lindsay, Wozney Street after mayor Rick Wozney and the Joanne Monaghan Activity Room at the Riverlodge Recreation Centre after mayor Joanne Monaghan.
“So why not honour this mayor by naming the arena, which he had built, after him?” asked Dawson.
He described Thom’s long, distinguished career in Kitimat, starting when he was first elected alderman in 1969, his election as mayor in 1973, 1977, 1980 and 1983, ending his last term as mayor in November 1984.
Thom passed away on April 12 this year at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital in Smithers.
Dawson made reference to a number of Thom’s accomplishments, outlined in a letter published in the Sentinel that was sent in by Roma Burnett in May, including overseeing the creation of Riverlodge, Cable Car, the construction of Mount Elizabeth Secondary School and the RCMP building, and ensuring Methanex was built in Kitimat.
“As I sat at former Mayor George Thom’s memorial service and listened to all the accomplishments made during his time as mayor to help improve our community, I wondered why there is nothing done to honour him,” said Burnett in her letter.
“No streets, rooms, buildings or parks are named after him, yet this man and his council helped this community in so many positive ways,” she added.
Councillor Larry Walker said while Thom should be recognized for his contribution to Kitimat, he suggested looking at other options for honouring Thom.
“The changing of a name of an existing building may cause confusion,” said Walker. “Thom should be recognized, but I’m not totally confident it should be the arena.”
Dawson replied that if it weren’t for Thom, the arena would never have been built, considering the opposition he faced at the time of its construction.
“He really pushed it. I can recall one time after a meeting when he was told that it would never fly. The mayor said ‘watch!’ It did fly, and it got built, because of mayor George Thom,” said Dawson.
Councilor Mario Feldhoff said while the renaming the arena was a reasonable option, there could be other options.
“I want to reflect on different input and perhaps have the Advisory Recreation Commission provide some comment as to their thoughts on this, and get more history on the naming of Tamitik,” said Feldhoff.
“I can’t see us upsetting someone if we were to change that, but I’d like to understand what was behind the naming of the facility,” he added.
Councillor Rob Goffinet also supported the motion, making reference to the two mayors already recognized. He too requested that DoK staff look into developing a policy to recognize other mayors.
“There are other mayors that haven’t been acknowledged. Are we going to allow staff to look at other mayors, a policy to honour mayors without bias, like we’re attempting to do with mayor Thom?” he asked.