MARQUETTE, Mich. -- As the second winner of Kraft Hockeyville USA, the town of Marquette, Mich., will receive $150,000 to upgrade Lakeview Arena as well as host a nationally-televised preseason game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN).
So how did Lakeview Arena defeat over 1,000 entries to win the title?
"All the nominations were made by communities all over the United States," Liz Janz, marketing manager for Kraft Hockeyville USA, said at the Fan Fair at Northern Michigan University's Superior Dome on Sunday. "All 50 states were covered as far as nominations, and then it was narrowed down to a top 10 of all the rinks. Over 67 percent of the rinks in the United States entered, which was very exciting for us."
The winning entry, submitted by Dr. Frederick Hoenke, explained the community's love for hockey and the deteriorating arena, which was built in 1973 and opened a year later. The more than 60 banners celebrating state and national championships and runner-ups at Lakeview Arena still hang proudly from the ceiling, and the entry clearly made an impression with the selection committee at Kraft.
"What would winning this contest mean to this isolated community with such history, such passion, such a legacy from hockey? Everything. Everything," the last line in Hoenke's essay said.
Lakeview Arena, which has a capacity of 3,100 people for hockey, recently had repairs to the dehumidification system, locker rooms, Zamboni, lights and a sound system upgrade. It also got new glass from the Colorado Avalanche, coaches platforms on the benches, new protective end netting and NHL standard protective end post padding.
"The entry demonstrated the passion in the community for the rink and how they celebrate each other as well as the needs of the rink itself and just the whole story behind it," Janz said.
Kraft donated a total of $335,000 in arena upgrades to the top 10 community finalists. Six received $10,000, two received $25,000 and runner-up Rapid City, S.D. (Rushmore Thunderdome) received $75,000.
Johnstown, Pa., was the inaugural Kraft Hockeyville USA winner last season, and Cambria County War Memorial Arena received upgrades as well as a preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. Kraft has also has sponsored Hockeyville in Canada for the past 11 years, donating more than $2 million to communities.
"When I walked in [to the Fun Fair], I was just enamored by the community coming together and having fun and celebrating this whole weekend so it was great to see," Janz said, looking at the line to take a picture with the Stanley Cup, which stretched around a good portion of the football field inside the Superior Dome.
Kraft has partnered with Stop Hunger Now this year, and more than 1,000 Marquette Senior High School students will help pack more than 285,000 relief meals.
"It makes us very happy, (to see the community come together), that's for sure," Janz said.