It's a big day in the Sydney area for hockey fans, skaters and fitness enthusiasts: the long-planned and much-discussed Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre is officially open. 

Construction of the $19-million facility started two years ago. The centre features two ice surfaces, with one seating 1,200 while the other seats 350. The one with fewer seats will be open for ice rentals on Oct. 3. 

'One of a kind in Cape Breton'

There's also a full-size walking track and community rooms. The federal government provided $6 million and the province kicked in $6 million to cover the construction costs.

"Over the past eight years, our council has worked tirelessly to ensure this vision came to life," said Membertou Chief Terry Paul in a press release. "Today we will open a community facility that will be one of a kind in Cape Breton." 

Sheldon Googoo lives in Membertou and skated on a pond as a child in the community, a far cry from the new ice rink.

Sheldon Googoo

Sheldon Googoo, right, says the new facility will have a positive impact on the health of the Membertou community. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Googoo said the community is grateful for the new facility. He says it will help improve the health of the community. 

"It all equals out in your body to keep your health and your fitness balanced and your spirituality," he said. "I mean just look at the huge cases of diabetes in First Nations communities. To have this state-of-the-art facility, I think it's huge." 

'The kids are excited'

First to take the ice today wil be teams from the Sydney Minor Hockey Association.

"The kids are excited," said David Jamael, president of the minor hockey association. 

"We're running our conditioning camps out of there so we have a lot of parents that are excited to get to this new facility and see what it's like."

Other rinks are aging

Jamael said the other rinks in the area are old, with small dressing rooms.

​"If you have 17 kids that are trying to get dressed in a dressing room with the parents involved, there's a lot of people in the room at the same time.

"So these are bigger dressing rooms, the ice surface is new, the boards are new — it's fresh." 

Jamael says he hopes the new high-tech facility will encourage people to get involved in hockey 

"I want people to come up and see it and come watch hockey games and have their kids try it, it's just a beautiful facility."

Corrections

  • The province contributed $6 million to the project, not $3 million as originally reported.
    Sep 07, 2016 6:14 AM AT