Elliot Lake hockey rink receives $300,000 boost from Armstrong family

The founder of a US-based software company is giving back to the Northern Ontario community that raised him by donating $300,000 to help repair its only indoor hockey rink.

The City of Elliot Lake announced Friday that it has received this generous donation from Jim "Jaime" Armstrong and his wife Jo-Ann, who are kick starting a campaign to raise a total of $500,000 for the Centennial Arena.

This campaign, dubbed the "Jamie and Jo-Ann Armstrong Centennial Arena Repair Fundraising Challenge,” runs until Aug. 31 and encourages residents to generate funds by donating online or organizing events in the community.

"Having played hockey throughout my school days in Elliot Lake, I remember the excitement we all felt when we finally had an indoor arena, and we were saddened to hear it had to be shut down last fall,” Armstrong said in a corresponding news release.

"For a number of years, we have been trying to think how we could pay back that experience, and this is it. I challenge the residents and businesses of Elliot Lake, and former Elliot Lakers, to join us in restoring the arena and help create memories for generations to come.”

Armstrong is the co-founder of JDA Software Inc., currently known as Blue Yonder, which provides supply chain solutions to the international market.

Throughout his career, Armstrong has also been involved with a number of charitable endeavors, including the Kiita Foundation, the Armstrong Family Foundation and the Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation.

His wife Jo-Ann has also undertaken a number of philanthropic projects and currently serves on the board of the Kiita Foundation.

Elliot Lake Mayor Andrew Wannan welcomed this $300,000 donation from the former residents, saying it came "completely unsolicited and out of the blue."

“This donation will assist the municipality in the repair of the Centennial Arena while limiting the financial impact that may affect other city operations," Wannan said in Friday's news release.

"The ultimate goal is to get the youth of Elliot Lake back on the ice participating in the sport they love and making memories that will last a lifetime.”

Elliot Lake's 55-year-old Centennial Arena was shut down last September due to concerns about the structural integrity of the building.

This closure forced Elliot Lake’s hockey players and figure skaters to travel outside the community for all practices and competition, which has left many who cannot afford or accommodate this frequency of travel behind.

Before Friday's announcement about Armstrong's $300,000 donation, the community received some good news on March 30 when Elliot Lake was named Kraft Hockeyville for 2024.

This title, bestowed by Kraft Heinz in partnership with the National Hockey League, entitles Elliot Lake to $250,000 for arena upgrades and the opportunity to host an official NHL pre-season game.

However, the Centennial Arena repair process has run into some speed bumps as of late.

On Monday, Elliot Lake staff revealed to city council that one of the contractors they hired to complete this project would be unable to proceed under their current agreement.

Despite the delays brought about by this lost contractor, acting manager of public works Bill Golding, according to CTV News, told council he remains hopeful they can finish these repairs and reopen the arena by the fourth quarter of 2024.


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Kyle Darbyson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sault Star