Groundbreaking ceremony opens construction on massive new recreation facility

The facility itself will be a boost for minor sports, but for many what will be just as exciting are the businesses that will spring up around it. Hotels and restaurants are in the future plans for what will be a district built around the facility. Part of the hope is this will make Prince Albert a more attractive spot for tournaments.

“We know Saskatoon is a huge draw for tournaments and stuff like that with the size,” said Dallman. And not just the hockey but the extracurriculars. The restaurants, the hotels you can stay at. With this district being built, over time we’ll become a destination that people aren’t just looking to go to Saskatoon.”

The hockey rinks are by no means the only draw of the facility, however. With a competition-worthy swimming pool that’s eight lanes wide and 25 meters long, a wave pool with two kinds of waves, a lazy river, and two water slides, the aquatic facility will be pumping 1.8 million litres of water.

“Our competitive club struggled because we lost our space and we have to travel,” said Shannon Schlamp with the Pikes Artistic Swim Club. “So that was a bit of a hit for us. But now we actually are building. So we’re excited. I think things are looking up.”

Saskatchewan Artistic Swimming has already told the club they could host provincial and interprovincial events at this facility. It will be the first time in Prince Albert’s history that they’ve had a pool of the required size, to say nothing of the other aspects of the aquatic centre.

“We worked to make sure our needs were represented in the pool,” said Lane Gelhorn with the Prince Albert Sharks Swim Club, “to make sure that we didn’t make a mistake about building the pool just a little bit too small or without the required infrastructure to host competitive meets. So we’re really excited that this pool is done right.”

As ambitious as the project is, there is far more to it than the facility itself. Down the road, a new rink for the Prince Albert Raiders is in the works in the same area, and hotels and restaurants are expected to be a major part of the area as well.

“We have three phases, this is phase one,” said Mayor Greg Dionne. “Phase two is that (a new rink for the Raiders). Phase three is the library. We continue to work on that. Our challenge today is just funding. The plans are well underway.”

While the Raiders have no home in this soon-to-be-finished facility and will remain in the Art Hauser Centre, the team is still pleased to see it coming in. There will be benefits for them both direct and indirect.

“For us, we’re a big supporter of minor hockey,” said General Manager Curtis Hunt. “It’s fantastic. More sheets (of ice), more kids. More kids on the playground means just better opportunity for everybody.”

Down the road, a hockey district of sorts would make the city more appealing for visiting teams to stay in when they come to play the Raiders, with all their accommodations and meals in the same place. In the meantime, the Raiders will appreciate the facility for some of the same reasons everyone else will.

“Certainly, I think our players will be in that wave pool,” Hunt said with a chuckle. “I know that’s coming.”

As happy as all the local sports organizations are, the Mayor did stress some caveats. This is going to be not only an expensive facility but one that’s going to be more expensive than the initial estimates as inflation has taken a toll on all manner of building materials and services.

“Just look at your own world,” said Dionne. “If you go to judge us about how much the cost has gone up, you tell me how much of your costs have gone up in your household. You just got served notice that energy is going up again, power is going up again. Unfortunately, at some point you have to make the decision, it’s time. If you don’t build today, tomorrow it’s going to cost you more.”

The city’s increase in debt has not yet been approved, and Dionne said they were in the process of negotiating it. In the meantime, he said the city will announce a new fundraising initiative in the next month to six weeks once they’ve nailed down their costs.

“We have had a couple of very positive comments from the Minister of Finance, Donna Harpauer,” Dionne said. “She has given us the contact people. Next week, we’re setting up conference calls and meetings with the federal government. The cost has come up not only for our project, but every project in the country is now over budget.”

Dionne added the biggest expense of the facility they’re working on right now was the aquatic centre, as the pumps and even the water itself made for extra costs.


On Twitter: @RobMahonPxP

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