PEI

What's happening with O'Leary arena 1 year after Kraft Hockeyville win?

Della Sweet says she's been asked a lot what's happening with the O'Leary arena since the community won the top $100,000 prize in the Kraft Hockeyville contest last year.

Committee hopes to leverage contest funds to raise money for larger-scale arena renovation.

Don Cherry and Ron MacLean pose in their potato attire. (O'Leary Hockeyville/Twitter)

Della Sweet says she's been asked a lot what's happening with the O'Leary arena since the community won the top $100,000 prize in the Kraft Hockeyville contest last year.

But Sweet, who was a Hockeyville organizer and is now part of the Kraft Hockeyville renovation committee, said there's no rush.

"We're in no big panic," Sweet said. "I know the community would love to see something and know what we did with that money but to us we're trying to do it in a way that everybody will be happy and nobody is going to be in any financial jeopardy when it's over."

Wade Sweet, president of the O'Leary rink board and fellow member of the Kraft Hockeyville renovation committee, said it's not about getting the work done quickly, it's about making the money stretch and leaving a lasting legacy of the community's big win.

Della Sweet, renovation committee member, says the aim is to make the sports centre project all it can be. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"We only have this one shot. We've got this $100,000. We could have paved the parking lot and used it all up in a hurry," Wade Sweet said. "We want the project to last. We want this to be something the community can be proud of, and we want to be able to say 'Kraft Hockeyville did this for us.'"

Plans to make arena more accessible

The committee has big plans for the arena, and is hoping for a big budget to match. Still in conversation with consultants and engineers, the committee is looking at a price-tag of almost $400,000 to make the O'Leary Community Sports Centre a modern and accessible space that can be used year-round. Some of the main goals include:

  • Re-purpose the banquet hall.
  • Make the breezeway more accessible, and make watching games more enjoyable for people using wheelchairs.
  • Improve canteen and skate sharpening facilities, and make it easier for people in those areas to see the ice.
  • Improve accessibility to the referee room, and install cameras so that any on-ice incidents can reviewed.
  • Improve washroom facilities.

The plan is to leverage the money they have, the $100,000 from Kraft Hockeyville and almost $30,000 made through merchandise and other fundraisers, to apply for provincial and federal grants. The committee also plans to look into the possibility of corporate sponsorships.

Wade Sweet, president of the O'Leary rink board and member of the Kraft Hockeyville renovation committee, says the group aims to leave a lasting legacy from the town's big win. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

"$100,000 sounds like a lot of money, but ... to cover the whole scope of what we want to do, we need more," said Wade Sweet, who adds the group hopes to cover the cost of the full renovation without having a mortgage.

The committee is assessing how the work could be done, and what the end result will look like. They plan to hold a community meeting in the coming months to update residents on the plan and seek input from anyone interested.

The group hopes to secure enough funding to start construction in 2019, with the project completed in 2020. 

Boom in tourism, hockey enrolment

According to the town's mayor, Eric Gavin, the area saw more visitors than usual this past summer — people who wanted to see the tiny Island community that won Hockeyville earlier in the year.

"It put the town of O'Leary on the map," Gavin said. "People who never knew where O'Leary was, for sure ... they know where O'Leary is now."

The Kraft Hockeyville renovation committee hopes to make the aging O’Leary Community Sports Centre a more modern and accessible space that can be used year-round. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

And the contest win didn't just boost tourism in the area. Bethany MacIsaac, O'Leary minor hockey president, said the rink is busier than ever.

"We've had an increase in registrations, which is wonderful, and our female hockey program is growing as well, and I believe that Hockeyville has been a huge contributor to that," she said.

MacIsaac believes that participating in — and winning — the contest will leave a lasting impression on the entire community, especially the children.   

"It taught them that hard work pays off," she said. "And that coming together and working together is so important to success, whether that be through playing hockey or through events like Hockeyville."

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With Files from Julien Lecacheur, Radio-Canada

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