Recent major gifts that have helped propel the fundraising team towards the $29 million campaign goal include a $2.51 million contribution from Huskie hockey alumni in early April, the City of Saskatoon's additional $3 million commitment to the project in February, and Ron and Jane Graham's $4 million gift in December to add two gymnasiums to the arena. Since the fall, additional enhancements to the architectural plans for the facility also include three additional rows of spectator seating, allowing for almost 3,500 fans.
Tim Hodgson, chair of the Saskatoon Home Ice Campaign committee, credits the success of the fundraising team to the wide-ranging impact of the new arena—for both university athletes and Saskatoon residents.
"The community has really supported this project because it will benefit so many," he noted. "On one level, anyone with a connection to the Huskies knows that we need a new facility, for the sake of the programs. On another level, we have supporters who have a very strong connection to the community, who recognize the benefits to Saskatoon minor hockey. And there is incredible sports tourism potential—for provincial, regional and national championships in sports like ringette, figure skating, short track speed skating and lacrosse." Hodgson leads the Home Ice Campaign team alongside his former Huskie hockey coach, campaign chair Dave King.
It is estimated that the twin-ice, multi-sport complex will be open for the start of the hockey season in October 2018, while the two NBA-length practice gymnasiums will be ready for Huskie basketball in 2019.
Belsher, lead donor and community advocate for the Home Ice Campaign, said he felt emotional and excited about reaching the groundbreaking milestone so quickly. "It's been a privilege to be involved in this campaign and see the momentum that was built in the community for this project," he said. "I knew there was an urgent need for a new ice facility, not only for the University of Saskatchewan, but also for Saskatoon minor hockey. So it is gratifying to see that there will be ice in the fall of 2018."
To see more photos from the event, please visit http://huskies.usask.ca/general/2016-17/photos/0005/index
By Jessica Elfar