NORTH RUSTICO – Construction on the town’s rink replacement has proven to be an effective wake-up call for its mayor.
“I can feel the vibration in my house,” Heather McKenna said.
She lives right beside the construction zone, where bulldozers and dump trucks have been seen levelling the ground this month in preparation for the new arena’s foundation to be laid. It’s replacing the town’s aging and much smaller North Star Arena, which is right next door.
The town will likely be full of construction vehicles coming and going until the project’s proposed completion of next spring, but McKenna notes most community members are supportive and willing to put up with the hustle and bustle until then.
“It’ll be all worth it in the end,” she said. “It’s really amazing how people have come forward to help us in this endeavour.”
North Rustico has already raised over $ 1 million toward its $ 3 million goal in a Fill the Jar campaign. Taking into account some promised donations that haven’t been signed on paper yet, former deputy mayor Les Standen expects that number is closer to about $ 2 million.
It’s hard to predict what the new arena’s total cost will be in the end – most of which will be funded by the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and the Canada Games – because there are still some tenders for the final phase that haven’t gone out.
As well, construction materials, such as wood, are becoming more expensive due to COVID-19, Standen said.
“Thank goodness this isn’t a (fully) wooden building.”
He’s thankful most of the materials for phase one were ordered before costs started to rise and that North Rustico finally has some progress to show for all the behind-the-scenes work over the years. Construction was supposed to start last fall, he said.
Once the new arena is completed, the heated and sustainably designed building will feature a gym, a walking track and, most notably, an Olympic-sized ice surface for sports like hockey and ringette, which will be utilized during the 2023 Canada Games.
“That’ll be the only one on the Island,” McKenna said.
P.E.I.’s Mount Academy, a private hockey school, will also have classroom space there – about 120 students are expected to start lessons at the North Star Arena beginning in September before moving over to the new arena. Many students from away will be put up in billet housing.
Even though the North Star Arena’s usage was up during the 2020-21 season, the new arena will make an even bigger impact on North Rustico’s economy, the 13 communities it’ll serve and across P.E.I., McKenna said.
“That’s what you want,” Standen said. “Places that don’t grow don’t survive.”