It will be two years this September since O’Leary hosted their NHL pre-season game at the Credit Union Place after winning Kraft Hockeyville in 2017.
When the town placed in the Top 2 in the annual competition that year, they won $100,000 to be used towards upgrades at the O’Leary Community Sports Centre.
But $100,000 can only go so far.
“There has been a lot of people on social media, saying, you need a new parking lot, why don’t you do that,” said Wade Sweet, president of the O’Leary rink board. “Well, we could have spent the $100,000 on the parking lot and have nothing to show for it.”
The renovation committee that formed after Kraft Hockeyville knew if they wanted to make significant upgrades to the rink it would require additional government funding and they have been lobbying government officials for the past two years for that funding.
On Sept. 5, at the O’Leary rink, Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey and PEI’s Minister of Social Development and Housing Ernie Hudson announced that the Community Sports Centre would be receiving federal- provincial funding of $1.7 million for its renovation project.
More than $11.4 million in joint government infrastructure funding for projects across Prince County was announced last Wednesday, with the communities of Alberton and Tyne Valley also receiving funding for upgrades to their local arenas.
“We all know, take the rinks out of small towns, rural Canada, rural PEI, will would we be? They are the centre, they are the pulse, they are the heartbeat of these rural communities,” said Mr Morrissey.
The non-profit organization Transportation West Inc. is also receiving federal and provincial funding to help purchase five new larger capacity, fuel-efficient specialized transit mini-buses.
“We are really excited, but the hard work starts now,” said Mr Sweet, following the announcement. “The planning and coordinating for construction and the build.”
The $1.7 million will be used towards remodeling the front area of the rink, renovating the dressing rooms, replacing the boards around the ice surface, purchasing a new score clock and help to make the arena more accessible as well as make the building safer with the purchase of a new ice plant machine.
“Ours is almost 30 years old now, its past its best before date,” said Mr Sweet. “We were getting to the point that we would have had to fundraise to replace it anyway, but with this announcement, we’re able to do a whole lot more.”
Mr Sweet said the hope is to have everything in place to start the renovations in April 2020.
“We’re not sure if we can get it done in all one season or if it would have to be staged over two,” he said. “The announcement came at a good time so we can begin to line things up.”
Among the attendees at the announcement were four of the five members of the Hockeyville committee, dubbed the Fab Five.
Dean Getson, who is also on the rink renovation committee, said it has been a long process to get to this point.
“It’s been a lot of meetings. It’s been a lot of work at home, but as you know, anything worth doing is worth the work,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the Hockeyville committee. The four other people on that committee, we were friends before, but we’re have this bond I guess for the rest of our lives.”
The O’Leary rink, along with all the projects announced receiving funding, will be responsible for paying for a portion of the remodeling, with Mr Sweet saying at some point in the future the board will be rolling out a capital campaign to help raise money for their share of the renovations.
Mr Sweet said a big part of the board’s plans is to modernize the facility so its more energy efficient.
“We’re never going to have a better opportunity to do this than now,” he said. “We want to set up the facility for the next 30 years.”