Estevan “pumped” about new arena and events centre.
"When you come to Estevan, you do everything as big as possible," grinned city manager Jim Puffalt, as he led a group of visitors on a tour around the building site for the new Estevan arena and events centre.
Construction on the state-of-the art facility began in May of 2009 and is expected to be complete in December 2010.
The new arena will be home to the SJHL's Estevan Bruins, and will seat more than 2,200 people for hockey games, but Puffalt is quick to point out that it's going to be a lot more than just a hockey rink.
It will be a venue capable of hosting large conventions and will be able to seat up to 4,000 people for concerts. Puffalt believes Estevan, with its close proximity to the US border will become another stop on the road for bigger name acts who are touring the western Canada or the US.
And, of course, the new facility will be a pretty terrific place to catch a hockey game, too.
The arena will feature an NHL regulation-sized ice surface. The Bruins currently play in the Estevan Civic Auditorium, built in 1957. The club used to be affiliated with the NHL's Boston Bruins, so the Civic Auditorium's ice surface was built to match the undersized dimensions found in the old Boston Garden.
The new facility will also feature eight locker rooms, and a top-notch $250,000 scoreboard with video screens.
It also features 24 corporate boxes, which completely sold out the first day they were on sale, more than two years before the arena is scheduled to be opened.
"We could have sold 48," Puffalt said.
Other features include a rubberized walking track, a lounge overlooking the ice service, and large glazed windows to allow in natural light.
The new facility will complement and ultimately replace the Estevan Civic Auditorium,. It will be integrated into the existing Souris Valley Leisure and Aquatic Centre, which will also be receiving some upgrades as a result. For example, waste heat from the arena will be used to heat the nearby pool.
The community has really gotten behind the project, and has been fundraising for it since 2007.
A recent fundraising dinner and auction featuring Detroit Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman and the team's general manager Ken Holland netted $309,000 in a single night. So far, total fundraising for the project has topped $7.4 million.
"People are pumped," Puffalt said. "It's a third ice surface [in the city]. We're so limited on ice that we have right now. The opportunity for concerts to happen, for other indoor sports that we really don't have a facility for, like indoor soccer. They can just hardly wait for it to open."
Still, the entire project is going to cost in the neighbourhood of $22 million, so it was a foregone conclusion that the city of Estevan would seek money from other levels of government. In Estevan, the provincial and federal governments stepped up in a big way.
The Building Canada Fund - Communities Component (BCF - CC) is a federal-provincial program that provides infrastructure funding to communities with populations under 100,000.
Through the BCF - CC, the federal government has contributed $5.11 million to the new Estevan arena and events centre. The Government of Saskatchewan had committed an additional $5.11 million under BCF-CC, after having previously committed $2.8 million under a separate program in 2007.
Puffalt was very enthusiastic when speaking about the impact of the provincial and federal investments.
"It's so huge," he said. "It just takes a lot of the pressure off [municipalities] because, with government funding it doesn't take away from other critical projects like roads and sidewalks. The funding allows us to be creative with how we raise money, get a huge, once-in-a-lifetime project for a community done and still get the rest of our work done. The government funding is just invaluable in getting this project going."