New Evangeline rec centre opens

The new $5-million Evangeline Recreation Centre in Abram-Village, P.E.I., officially opened Saturday, replacing the original building, which burned down in April 2010.

Built on same site as burned-down Abram-Village facility

The new $5-million Evangeline Recreation Centre in Abram-Village, P.E.I., officially opened Saturday, replacing the original building that burned down in an electrical fire in April 2010.

Since then residents and community groups have rallied together to raise $600,000 for the new facility through a fundraising effort organized by the Evangeline Recreation Commission.

Another $3 million came from the federal and provincial governments. Insurance covered about $500,000 and the balance came through other organizations.

"The mood in the community is just unbelievable," said Cedric Gallant, manager of the centre, which now includes an NHL-size ice surface, 400 seats in heated stands, a top-of-the-line ice plant, more dressing rooms, a new ice resurfacing machine and a large gymnasium upstairs.

It also has a new system that uses recycled energy from the ice cooling process to heat the building.

"I was so amazed when you see all these people that are just coming forward. You had bantam-aged kids that gave us $500 that they had for a team party at the end of the year. We had little girls that sold bracelets at the festival. They raised a couple of hundred bucks, but that was going to the rink," said Gallant.

"And the Chez Nous senior citizens home — they raised a whole bunch of money. They had a milk can in the floor and they filled that up. And so it was everything from kids from age seven and eight to people that were 90 years old. The whole community was involved. It was super."

Memories of the fire are still vivid for many people, said Gallant. "It was a terrible disaster and a terrible moment to drive up here and see all that smoke and all the fire departments and everything. It was just devastating."

He said he's still reeling about what has risen from the ashes.

"You'd never dream of having something like this in the Evangeline area, but yeah, it's unbelievable. Something bad sometimes has to happen for something good to come out of it, and this is it."

Members of the community have already been putting the centre, which opened couple of months ago, to good use, including several figure skaters, who say they're thrilled to have new and improved home ice.

"It felt really different, like the ice is completely different. There was no bumps at all," said Kelsey Arsenault.

Athletes have had to travel to Slemon Park to skate while the new centre was being built.

Students are also using the new gym for lunch-time workouts.

"I'm helping them to try to work out and do some exercise and have some fun doing things at the gym. Instead of looking at the ceiling in school, they come there and have some exercise," said Eric Mon.