How O'Leary has grown $100K Hockeyville prize to a $1.7M renovation

O'Leary's Hockeyville prize money is about to be put to work, almost three years after the community won the national competition and a $100,000 top prize on April 1, 2017.

The renovation committee is hoping that work to upgrade the rink will start by April 1, 2020.

"It's a mixture of tension and relief," said Wade Sweet, president of the O'Leary rink board.

"It's been a long process getting to this point where we're sending things out to tenders and beginning our capital campaign, but it is such a relief to get here."

Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC

Sweet admitted some residents have been impatient to see the project move ahead.

"We would get comments from members of the public saying, 'Where's all this Hockeyville money? The parking lot is terrible. The dressing rooms are old. Why hasn't anything been done?'" Sweet said.

"It would've been very easy to put up a fresh coat of paint and pave the parking lot and be done completely with our Hockeyville money. We wanted to set our rink up to last for the next 30 years rather than just have some window dressing on it."

Submitted by Dean Getson

Project has grown

The O'Leary Hockeyville Legacy Project got a substantial boost in September 2019 when the federal and provincial governments announced they were contributing more than $1.1 million toward the renovations.

"What we realized really quickly is that $100,000 is a lot of money, but it's not a lot of money when you get into renovations," said Dean Getson, chair of the renovations committee in O'Leary.

"We wanted to see if we could pull in some other provincial-federal moneys, which we have. So the project has grown quite a bit, from a half-million dollar project to a $1.7 million project."

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Getson said an NHL-size ice surface was added to the original rink in 1991, along with bleachers, that are still in good shape.

He said the renovations will focus on the older section, including the entrance.

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"Accessibility has been a main theme throughout, so everything from washroom facilities, to viewing facilities, to the canteen," Getson said.

"That will be a lot of the cosmetic changes that people will see, complete with new lighting, overhauls to the dressing rooms and then our refrigeration plant, which unfortunately takes up almost half the budget."

Getson said the hope is that the renovations will extend the life span of the rink by another 25 to 30 years.

O'Leary Hockeyville/Twitter

'Good buzz'

Getson and his Hockeyville committee were invited to the Rally in the Valley in nearby Tyne Valley, where that community is now competing for the Hockeyville title after fire destroyed its rink.

"We recognize that we may be competing for the same dollars and further up the highway we have Alberton, they're undergoing some renovations as well," Getson said. 

"But there seems to be an appetite out there, there seems to be a good buzz in the air in terms of support and hopefully we can work together so that all three arenas can be upgraded."

Nicole Williams/CBC

Getson said the Hockeyville experience has been a "journey" and he's ready for the next stage.

"We did some studies after we won the prize, we reached out to some of the other Hockeyville communities and to be honest, I think some of them are still waiting," Getson said.

"But it seems to be the norm that they'll take the prize money and use it to leverage other moneys from three levels of government and come up with a finished product that makes sense."

Getson said the O'Leary committee is launching a capital campaign to raise another $365,000, to meet the community's $520,000 portion of the project.

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