New North Rustico arena opening delayed until end of October

·3 min read
The new North Rustico rink and wellness centre is now slated to open on Oct. 31, 2022.  (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News - image credit)
The new North Rustico rink and wellness centre is now slated to open on Oct. 31, 2022. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News - image credit)

With the hockey and ringette season just a couple of months away, the new North Rustico rink and wellness centre opening has once again been postponed.

Work began in late 2020, with organizers hoping to have it finished by the fall of 2021. But funding problems and COVID-related delays pushed the grand opening back, at first to the spring of 2022.

More recently, organizers said work crews were aiming to wrap things up by September 2022. But now everyone is hoping to open the facility on October 31.

"It is going to affect some of our users. I mean, they're going to have to find some ice in other spaces to begin their season," said Willie MacGuigan, the general manager of the new facility.

He added: "This is a once-in-100-year project out here, so I think once they do get in the facility, it'll be worth the wait."

Searching for ice

The old North Star Arena, which sat directly next door to the new rink, officially closed its doors in April.

After that, it was torn down, leaving no ice for players to skate on.

"Rustico Ringette Association is quite concerned about the impact the delayed opening will have on our registration numbers, specifically at our younger levels," association president Kenneth MacNeill said in a statement.

"Our season was set to start the first week of October [with] regular season games beginning mid-October.... We are currently in search of other local arenas that can supply us with ice time."

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News

MacGuigan said he has been working on that too, and has contacted several neighbouring communities to see if they have ice available.

"The rink community across the Island is a very tight-knit space. So I've been reaching out to other facility managers to see what they're able to offer to our minor hockey and minor ringette," he said.

"All the rinks I contacted, they've all gotten back to me and they've all given me options. So we are hopeful and we are confident that we will be able to fulfil the needs of our associations."

Even so, the Rustico Ringette Association statement noted, "families may not want to travel outside of the area, especially with the high cost of gasoline."

'Really optimistic'

The Mount Academy — an Island sports school — has also been gearing up to move some of its students to the new facility for the upcoming school year.

"We've been working closely with them so they have something in place that'll get them to the October 31 date," said MacGuigan.

"They'll be moving in leading up to that and they'll be full steam ahead."

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News

The new facility includes a workout gym, 10 dressing rooms, classrooms and an Olympic-sized ice surface.

"They're going to be a lot more tired with this-sized ice surface for sure," MacGuigan said with a laugh.

"We're just really optimistic and looking forward to turning this into the community hub for North Rustico and also all the other surrounding communities that have helped out."

'Worth the wait'

So far, the community and surrounding area have rallied to raise over $2.5 million for the project — just shy of the $3-million goal.

"The population's around 600. So we have a seat for everyone in North Rustico that wants to come and pop in and see a game," he said.

"But of those 600, I'd say you're close to 600 [who] have helped out on this project, so it's great to see."

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News

Despite the considerable amount of delays, both MacGuigan and the Rustico Ringette Association said the facility is "worth the wait."

"Their feet certainly won't be as cold in the mornings," MacGuigan said of those who will use the new space.

"They'll walk in there and I'd say there'll be a lot of eye-openers and a lot of kids just really excited to get out on a facility such as this."