New Brunswick

Kent North Imperial Centre in Richibucto officially opened

Almost nine years to the day after the J. Charles Daigle Memorial Arena caught fire and was damaged beyond repair, the town of Richibucto and surrounding communities are celebrating the grand opening of the Kent North Imperial Centre on Saturday.

Communities from the Kent North region will benefit from new facility

Eric Paquet, president of the project development committee, and Jean-Marc Robichaud, the vice-president and fundraising director, were the first two to take a skate on the ice at the Kent North Centre. (Kent North Center Committee/Facebook)

Almost nine years to the day after the J. Charles Daigle Memorial Arena caught fire and was damaged beyond repair, the town of Richibucto and surrounding communities celebrated the grand opening of the Kent North Imperial Centre on Saturday. 

Eric Paquet, president of the project development committee, and Jean-Marc Robichaud, the vice-president and fundraising director, were the first to skate on the ice when it was ready about two weeks ago. 

"The feeling was awesome," said Paquet. "To tell you the truth, I'm not a big skater or a hockey player but it was just the feeling that the mission is accomplished. We've been working so hard over the last nine years." 

Paquet says thousands of hours of volunteer work have gone into seeing the $11-million project become a reality. 

"People are so happy after all these years to finally have our rink back," Paquet said.

Third time a charm

It took three tries, from 2010 to 2015, to get a committee formed that was ready to take on the project, Robichaud said. 

"Within months (of the fire), members of the community got together and tried to get a committee going to rebuild the arena." 

Almost nine years to the day after the arena was damaged by fire, the new expanded facility has opened. (Kent North Center Committee/Facebook)

Due to a lack of support and funds, things fell by the wayside, but Robichaud said they tried again. It didn't work a second time. 

A meeting held three years ago, in December 2015, got things going. 

"It was obvious there was a big interest to rebuild the arena. We had the right people on the committee. We started the work in January 2016 and here we are today getting ready to open our new facility."

Region-wide representation

Robichaud said the facility was built for the entire Kent North area and representatives from those communities sat on the committee.

"It was a facility that everyone would be able to use. It's a beautiful facility for the area and something we needed."   

Robichaud said the committee raised $1.7 million and the remainder came from the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

The new facility has a 600-seat arena, a walking track, a gym and a fitness centre.

Richibucto Mayor Roger Doiron, middle cuts the ribbon to officially open the Imperial Kent North Centre. He was joined by, from left, Kent North MLA Kevin Arseneau, Beausejour MP Dominic LeBlanc, Kent North Center Committee president Eric Paquet and Liberal Leader Brian Gallant. (Radio Canada)

During the opening ceremonies, Richibucto Mayor Roger Doiron was clear in letting everyone know the facility was built for the region, not just for the town. 

"It's a great day for the area. It's not only a great day for Richibucto, it's a great day for all the communities around the town because everybody participates in this project." 

Doiron described it as a new gathering place for the region that is open to all ages and open year-round.

"We're proud." 

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