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Cambridge Bay, a remote community of about 1,500 in Nunavut's Kitikmeot region, will be home to a world-class Arctic research centre. ((CBC))

Residents of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, are surprised and excited to learn that a world-class Arctic research station will be built in their community.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday that Cambridge Bay, a hamlet of about 1,500 in western Nunavut along the Northwest Passage, will be the site of the world-class research facility.

"It felt to me like Cambridge Bay just won the Stanley Cup. The cheer that went up was really something to behold," Mayor Syd Glawson told CBC News following Tuesday's announcement.

"We worked hard and long for this, and it finally came true."

Glawson said he knew something was in the works, given Harper was slated to make some kind of announcement there on Tuesday, but nobody in the hamlet was certain until the announcement made it official.

Chosen out of 3 finalists

Poor weather prevented Harper from flying out of Churchill, Man., for the scheduled event in Cambridge Bay on Tuesday. The prime minister made the announcement in Churchill instead.

Cambridge Bay was chosen over two other Nunavut communities, Pond Inlet and Resolute Bay. All three shortlisted contenders spent the last 18 months vying for the opportunity to host the Arctic research station.

Cambridge Bay is on the southeastern coast of Victoria Island in the Kitikmeot region in western Nunavut. Pond Inlet is near the northern tip of Baffin Island in eastern Nunavut, while Resolute Bay is in north-central Nunavut, on the southern coast of Cornwallis Island.

Glawson said each of the finalist communities rallied nearby communities for support. In Cambridge Bay's case, it received letters of support from every mayor and council in the Kitikmeot region.

Given its proximity to the Northwest Territories, Cambridge Bay also had support from Yellowknife and Inuvik, N.W.T. Yellowknife is about 850 kilometres southwest of Cambridge Bay.

"Everything that goes to Cambridge Bay has to stop in Yellowknife, so it gives us an opportunity to be involved in the process and to welcome visitors to our city that we might not otherwise see," Yellowknife Mayor Gordon Van Tighem said.

Catalyst for growth

Glawson and Cambridge Bay business owner Vicki Aitaok agreed that hosting the research station will be a catalyst for local growth, since it will bring new residents to their community.

"Hopefully they will bring new ideas, and new volunteerism and new things to the community that will benefit everybody," Aitaok said.

Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak, who was in Cambridge Bay on Tuesday for Harper's planned visit, said the Arctic research station will benefit everyone in her territory.

"In time, I'm very much hoping that our own young people, our own students, will be engaged in research activities," she said.

Specific details and timelines are not yet clear about construction of the Arctic research station. Glawson said his hamlet officials will start to discuss details with the federal government immediately.