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New legion location opens its doors

After an extensive two day process the Royal Canadian Legion Branch Vincent Massey 164 is officially open at its new location on Franklin Avenue underneath Coyote's Bistro.

The legion bought the building after an increase in membership demanded a larger space.

The new location has a capacity of 100 people – almost double the amount of the old space on the corner of 48 Street and Franklin Avenue.

A team of members hauled furniture from one building to another on April 27, but following what was a gruelling two-days, membership director, Tammy Roberts said Wednesday the new space is coming together.

“It was difficult ... but once you start putting every little piece of together it begins to look more and more amazing,” said Roberts.

Five dart boards have been added to the new wall to attract patrons. Also being added in the new legion are two pool tables and a shuffleboard area.                                                       Michael Hugall/NNSL photo

The legion is attempting to draw in new members with amenities such as: five dart boards; two pool tables; and an area to play shuffleboard.

Items from a new menu consisting of appetizers from the upstairs leaser, Coyote's Bistro, will also be provided via-dumbwaiter for hungry patrons.

Legion president Don Asher said he hopes the new features in the legion will bring in more of the community.

“We've had people already express interest in running a crib tournament,” said Asher. “We've had others approach us about renting the hall (a current storage room and former bar beneath the new legion) for dances.”

Asher added he is open to anybody who would like to use the legion's new headquarters for events.

Legion president Don Asher stands next to a display housing five different service member uniforms. Some of the uniforms were worn during World War II.                                                   Michael Hugall/NNSL photo

“Anybody can be a legion member,” he said. “It used to be that only people who served could be members but that’s not the case any more.”

A pair of concerts this weekend will christen the new venue as Canadian country-music star George Canyon takes the stage on Friday and Saturday night. The legion chose Canyon because he reflects their values of supporting the military and expanding opportunities for the youth.

“He's been so easy to deal with through this whole process,” said Roberts.

The Saturday show is sold out, but there are still tickets left for Friday. Portable washrooms will be added to increase the capacity in the legion from 100 to 135.

Both nights are expected to be full.

The new Royal Canadian Legion Branch 164 location on Franklin Avenue has the capacity to house 100 people. For the George Canyon shows on Friday and Saturday they will be upping the capacity to 135. Both shows are expected to be sold out.                                   Michael Hugall/NNSL photo

Despite the packed house, the legion says it will not be reaping the rewards of all ticket and drink sales.

“A lot of people don't know this but the legion is a not-for-profit organization, we are obligated to give 55 per cent of our sales to other organizations in the city,” said Asher. “Last year we donated $160,000.”

The new venue is continuing the Vincent Massey name which has been a part of Yellowknife since the 1940s. Since its inception it has moved from Old Town to downtown. The former legion building has been around since the 1970s.

Since 2017 the legion has gained more members. Last year there were 129 members. This year there are 170 and Roberts projects that number to grow

Continuing the legion's involvement in the community and supporting current members of the military remains important for Asher and his family.

“My father served in the Second World War and nothing was ever done to help him,” said Asher. “ I feel like people are forgetting that because today service members don’t die, they are peace keepers, but people fail to remember the past.”

Uniforms from nurses, navy, air force, military and RCMP – some of which were worn during World War 2– are all hung proudly in a glass-showcase adjacent to the bar. Asher calls the display his baby and is excited the team was able to commemorate all the aspects of service.

Before the Canyon show on Friday, 99-year-old retired service member Dusty Miller, who's World War 2 uniform hangs in the showcase will cut the ceremonial ribbon.