The excitement is beginning to build, as the long-awaited new arena nears completion in Rankin Inlet.
The arena is expected to come in over its original $26-million price tag. The hamlet is hoping to be handed the keys by Oct. 21.
The building will also be fitted with artificial turf as soon as the ice goes out, making it a true year-round facility.
League-and-tournament player Lee Kreelak said the new arena is long overdue in Rankin.
He said, despite all the delays, he never doubted for a moment Rankin would get the arena because he knows how hard recreation co-ordinator David Clark has worked on the project for the past 10 years.
“I had no doubt in my mind he would eventually get it done with all the various parties he was dealing with,” said Kreelak.
“I actually started working in the new arena as an electrician, but it wasn’t for me, so I took a job with Agnico Eagle.
“I’m trying to stay in shape and get myself ready for the big event this hockey season is going to be in that building.
“It has a bigger ice surface, and I’m getting a little older, but I’m really looking forward to the start of the season.”
Kreelak said finally having washrooms and a shower in the dressing room is going to make a big difference for all the kids playing minor hockey in Rankin, as well as those playing in the senior men’s league.
He said once you walk in the building you immediately see the rink and, with the addition of the radio booth and beautiful new bleachers, both players and fans are in are for a great season.
“You look at all the tournaments this community hosts during the season, and this new building is going to add even more excitement to each one.
“And it is a community effort – from the referees to the players to the coaches – everyone has to put their work in and this new building is going to make that work just that much more enjoyable.
“It’s the first year with a brand-new arena and a brand-new outlook. It’s also probably going to help build our young players’ futures with more hockey programs being held and everyone having more drive in a new arena.
“Just to be in a new arena will be like fuel for our young guys.”
Level III hockey official Kyle Tattuinee said the new arena is a huge upgrade from what the community had previously, and it will be nice to not have it be -60 C inside the arena when it’s -60 C outside.
He said he’s looking forward to officiating in the new arena and, with the extra size of the ice surface, there may even be occassion to use the four-man system during tournaments.
“There were times people were wondering if this was ever going to happen, with plans being in place for more than five years and nothing taking place,” said Tattuinee.
“Then the year before last they started putting it up. That’s when you started really feeling like we were finally going to have our new arena.
“It’s going to be awesome for our minor hockey players to start the year in this new building. They’re going to be super excited and there’s nothing like the thrill they’ll get from skating on a brand-new ice surface in a beautiful new building.
“It’s also going to be exciting for the senior players who played so many years in our old arena, but I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces when they start skating on an NHL-sized rink.”
Tattuinee agrees the new arena should also add even more prestige to the tournaments Rankin hosts.
He said the new building may even lead to bigger things.
“Who knows, maybe the Arctic Winter Games can come here now that we have a beautiful new arena.
“They could look at splitting the hockey between Rankin and Iqaluit.
“We’ve got a new barn so we might as well put it to its full use.”