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Arena preparation underway

Two new additions raise spectre of a larger complex

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Oct 03/01) - On schedule and gathering steam, the city's arena project is evolving, taking on the feel of a community complex.

"Everything has gone smoothly," said Grant White, director of community services.

The $10-million project matured in the last few months with the addition of a gymnasium and a gymnastics training facility.

The city is getting these additions without spending a dime in added construction costs, thanks to an agreement with the Department of National Defence.

White said rental fees will cover maintenance costs.

For decades city politicians wrestled with the need for a new arena in the city.

Bad luck and bad planning torpedoed results. At one point the city asked for community input but the result proved too expensive.

Finally, last winter, city councillors decided to go for the bare essentials with one complete rink and a empty shell for a second. Nothing more.

After wrangling over a site, councillors chose the Yellowknife Correctional Centre land. Many felt the roomy site opened the door for additions.

Now the military wants in on the arena project.

They've offered $1 million for a new gymnasium, for which they would have priority access during the day.

The Yellowknife Gymnastics Club is planning to build its new facility beside the arena for $750,000 -- but that number could go higher.

Ben Webber, vice-president of the club, said they still need another $250,000 for an adequate facility. The club's current tally is $500,000.

"We're way over half way but most of all we're looking at someone to give us the final push," said Webber.

The club is considering turning itself into a for-profit corporation to qualify for a bank loan.

"But if someone wants their name on the building we could get this done sooner," said Webber, who noted another raffle is on the horizon.

The city is now laying down water and sewer pipes and moving telephone poles. In September the city moved the YCC fence cutting through the arena property.

White said they'd like to get the foundation down before it gets too cold. "We're still on target for (opening in) 2002," said White.

White said the Gerry Murphy arena will hold up until at least May 2002. "Sometimes when it rains hard, it rains hard inside as well," said White.

Gerry Murphy shut down on Sept. 27 because of rain.