New Iqaluit arena to open doors by fall

Recreation complex will have ice rink, youth center



IQALUIT — By the end of next month, construction will be complete on Iqaluit’s much-anticipated recreation centre.

A hulking brown and green structure on the road to Apex, the centre is being built for the 2002 Arctic Winter Games.

On a recent morning, a yellow front-end loader lifts crates and other building-materials in front of the complex. Inside, small piles of wood lie on the floor and the air smells of fresh paint.

Soon, the nearly finished centre will be home to a hockey rink, a youth centre and the city’s Department of Recreation offices.

Gilbert Normandeau talks about the project as he points out different features of the building. Normandeau is the former general manager of the Arctic Winter Games host society, the group that’s organizing the games.

What makes Normandeau especially pleased is that the society has raised all of the $4 million needed to build the arena. Work is well underway.

Normandeau expects construction will be finished by summer’s end. “We’re right where we want to be,” he says.

He opens the centre’s main doors, which lead into a spacious lobby.

There, he points to a wall that will bear the names of businesses and organizations that donated money for the arena’s construction. Prominent among the names will be the logo of the Royal Canadian Legion, whose $600,000 donation was the largest.

To the left side of the lobby there’s a large white kitchen.

“There was a lot of interest in having a space to prepare community feasts,” Normandeau explains.

Directly in the middle of the lobby there is a wall of windows looking out on what will likely be the most popular spot during the games: the ice rink.

Here speed-skaters from Greenland and Alaska will race down the ice and hockey players from the Yukon and Nunavik will slap pucks at the net.

It’s here too that the 970 athletes expected to compete in the Iqaluit segment of the games will march out on opening night. Normandeau anticipates that the bleachers, which seat about 840, will be jam-packed with spectators.

Normandeau knows just about everything there is to know about the rink, from the dimensions of the building to the function of the artificial-ice pipes that run underneath it. He points out that the rink is 200 feet long — standard North American size — making it larger than Iqaluit’s existing arena.

“This is the size the NHL plays on,” Normandeau says proudly.

Down the corridor, past the lockers and change rooms, there are five empty offices. Add some furniture and what you’ve got is the future office of the city’s Department of Recreation.

Normandeau says the facility will also house a youth drop-in centre.

He says it’s something the community’s young people have wanted for more than a decade.

The 3,000-square-foot room doesn’t look like much now. But Normandeau paints an image of a place with pool tables, a big screen TV, computers, games — and lots of youths.

If the kids go upstairs to the me anine they’ll have a prime view of the ice rink below.

“It’s sort of like having a luxury box in the Corel Centre,” Normandeau jokes.

Once construction is completed, the sports complex will be open for public use. Following the games in March, the city of Iqaluit will take over the cost of running it.

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