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Sask. town gets innovative

Gaylene Kaip, left, and her daughter, Renae, at the Innovation Centre in Radville, Sask. | Christalee Froese photo

RADVILLE, Sask. — It started with several local farmers and a school.

It is now Innovation Centre and it features a regional library, a fitness centre, a yoga studio and a daycare, as well as business offices for a hairdresser, massage therapist and optometrist.

This thriving hub of activity began to take shape eight years ago when farmers Doug and Gaylene Kaip and Glenn VandeSype decided to buy the elementary school in Radville. Even though the school was new in 1978, declining enrolment forced the public school to close and the students would be moving to Radville’s Catholic elementary school.

“We knew we had to buy the building because there’s just something that is so welcoming about this place,” said Gaylene Kaip, who had worked in the school as a teacher assistant for years before becoming a teacher herself.

“Because I worked here and loved this building, it was just a shame to think that a beautiful place like this would just be left empty.”

The Innovation Centre is home to the town’s library, day-care centre and many other businesses. | Christalee Froese photo

The initial plan was to subdivide the playground into 12 lots and create a senior citizen’s housing development. However, the economic downturn in the oil economy of the area several years ago put those plans on hold.

Doug and Gaylene’s daughter, Renae Kaip, came up with the idea of creating a community workout centre in the former elementary school gym. The entrepreneurial family partnered to invest in weight sets, elliptical trainers, rowing machines, treadmills, mirrors and flooring, which transformed the former gymnasium into a fully equipped community workout centre complete with a sauna, large-screen TV and a kids’ play area.

Renae, a school teacher, then began eyeing the school’s former staff room and large kindergarten room for her new business — Body Works.

Doug Kaip checks out some of the workout equipment at Innovation Centre’s public gym. | Christalee Froese photo

“Body Works was created when I was on maternity leave and I decided to step back from my teaching career to spend more time with my three young children and pursue my passions of holistic health and wellness,” said Renae, explaining that she is also trained as a yoga instructor, reflexologist and massage therapist and can offer those services because of the space at the Innovation Centre.

“There’s a really phenomenal collaboration of wellness offerings in Radville that make it a pretty special place to be and I just feel extremely grateful to be able to contribute to that.”

While Radville is only 50 kilometres from the city of Weyburn, Doug and Gaylene say that it was important to the economic health of their community to keep as many services in their hometown as possible.

The conversion of classrooms into office space meant that services like haircutting, optometry and massage therapy could all be offered in the town of about 850 people rather than forcing residents to drive.

“If you start to let your services go, people get used to travelling out of your town and shopping somewhere else,” said Gaylene.

While the community of Radville has experienced some economic hardships with a core financial institution leaving in the 1990s, and the oil and agricultural economies fluctuating, the Kaips say Radville has the ability to attract young people.

“Radville is a pretty successful farming community and it has a good core of young families,” said Doug.

“It’s not a dying community.”

Multimillion-dollar projects like a new hospital and a swimming pool have added to the attractiveness of Radville. The addition of businesses and a gym at Innovation Centre has meant increased vibrancy for the town.

A child-care centre occupies a large area in the Innovation Centre. | Christalee Froese photo

“A lot of young people are coming back and I think it is because we have so many good facilities and services,” said Gaylene, adding that she believes Radville is one of the best places to raise children.

“I grew up here and I had the best childhood in the world. We were lucky to have everything right here.”

The Kaips are hoping to eventually sell the playground lots and expand the number of services available at Innovation Centre, but for now they are thrilled to have been able to use most of the former elementary school rooms.

“It’s always paid its way, so it’s a viable business and we just want to keep what we have and work on expanding it,” said Doug.

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