Northern News Services
It's a $2-million community gift, a present from the Department of Community Government and Transportation, one that has the hamlet joyously excited.
"I just recently got back from (the arena) and I couldn't stop smiling," said recreation co-ordinator Pitsiula Ikkidluak. "It's so nice. I'm just speechless."
Without an arena, skaters turned to ponds, lakes and even the salt-water harbour when they wanted to take to the ice. All of that will change when the doors swing open on the 30-by-60-metre natural ice surface, complete with boards, glass and a home-made ice-clearing machine.
The building, which has been in construction since July, underwent final inspections last week. Arena workers were waiting for the ground to freeze, and hoped to have a bed of freshly-frozen ice by Christmas.
"There's a lobby, canteen, two change rooms, and it's up to date -- it has access for a handicapped viewing area and stuff like that," said acting senior administrator Tommy Akavak. "We're getting anxious for the opening."
The facility will be home to hockey teams and possibly other ice activities. All the teams haven't yet been scheduled, although those plans will begin to coalesce as people take to the ice. Ikkidluak hopes the arena will also house the music festival, and possibly even floor hockey in the summer.
The facility's grand opening, originally scheduled for Dec. 18, has been pushed back to a tentative date of Jan. 25.
And what an opening it will be: a community feast, tea-gathering and ribbon-cutting. Event planners are inviting several past and present NHL players.
Whispers are also floating about an invite to a certain CBC personality who recently made a trip to Arctic Bay.
"I'm trying to keep it quiet," said Ikkidluak. "I want the town and people to be surprised."