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The Road to Wake Competition Center

How local youth and amateur hockey and the Canes will benefit from new state-of-the-art facility

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

For now, you'll find an active construction site, a bricked frame of a 115,000 square-foot facility with exposed steel beams, plenty of dirt, and the buzzing and clanking and humming of heavy machinery.

But, in six to nine months, you'll find a state-of-the-art, twin-rink ice skating venue that the Carolina Hurricanes will call home as their new practice facility.

The venue is a focal point of Wake Competition Center, a nascent multi-sports complex tucked away off Aviation Blvd., just a short drive from Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Raleigh developer Jeff Ammons, who also owns the Canes' current practice rink, Raleigh Center Ice, spearheaded the $30 million project that also includes facilities for gymnastics, volleyball, soccer and athletic training.

The end product will be a premier regional ice skating venue - one that will include a restaurant, a pro shop, skate rentals, party rooms and more - and a much-needed practice home for the Canes, a process well over four years in the making.

"It's about our players having the right facility to train at and feel ownership in," Canes President and General Manager Don Waddell said. "I think it's important, too, as we continue to build not only our brand but the game of hockey."

The team will certainly feel ownership in their 12,000 square-feet of dedicated space that will include locker rooms, equipment space, coaches' offices, medical and athletic training areas and a players' lounge with a full kitchen. It's a footprint influenced "100 percent" by what the organization envisions, according to Waddell, who noted that this building project is the fourth he's overseen in his career.

Tweet from @MSmithCanes: It's a construction site for now, but coming soon in Morrisville: A brand new practice facility for the #Canes.

"Jeff has been great to work with. His architects spend time in our office, and we spend time in their office," Waddell said. "It's been a long process, but once that's been well worth it."

Not only do the Canes plan to use the facility as their main practice hub, but they will also be able to dangle it as a carrot to recruit free agent targets.

"Right now, we take them to PNC Arena. We tell them we don't really have a practice rink because we don't want to take them over to RCI," a jokingly blunt Waddell said during Friday's formal partnership announcement. "This will be something that we'll be very proud of."

Video: Hurricanes Announce New Practice Facility

The dual-rink venue expands beyond the Canes, too. Boasting nearly 2,000 total seats, the facility aims to play host to college hockey, state and national tournaments and more.

"Shane Willis and I talk about it all the time - we just need more ice facilities here," Waddell said. "There's only so much time kids can play. They go to school until 3:00 and go to bed at 10:00. The more facilities you can build, the more opportunity you have to expose kids to the game of hockey."

Recall, too, the NHL Prospects Showcase, a pre-training camp tournament that the Hurricanes joined this season. It rotates host cities, and Wake Competition Center figures to welcome the tournament within the next couple of years.

Once the hard hats are gone, once the ribbon is cut, once the first sheet of ice is laid down, Morrisville will be home to one of the leading ice skating facilities in the state and greater southeast region. Wake Competition Center will provide an immeasurable enhancement for the thriving local youth and amateur hockey community and a long-awaited showcase practice home for the Hurricanes.

"We're going to have everything we need here," Waddell said. "We'll call this home."

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