The Rink of Dreams takes a big step closer to becoming reality today.
With a radiothon kicking off at noon today on the Team 1200 just outside the new Ottawa Convention Centre, the fundraising has begun in earnest for the outdoor community rink, slated to open in December at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall.
The Sens Foundation has pledged to cover $1 million of the design and building costs for the Rink of Dreams, which has a total pricetag of $1.25 million. The City of Ottawa is taking care of the remaining $250,000 and will operate the facility.
Helping the cause in a major way is the Hockey Canada Foundation, which is staging its annual gala tonight at the Convention Centre, along with a golf tournament Tuesday at the Marshes and Eagle Creek Golf Course. A portion of the proceeds is earmarked toward the Rink of Dreams, with the Senators and Sens Foundation hopeful to receive $350,000 worth of assistance for the project.
Tonight's gala, which will honour Hockey Canada's championship teams during the past year, brings together a who's who of the hockey world. One of the main mandates of the Hockey Canada Foundation's initiatives is supporting grassroots hockey, which makes the Rink of Dreams an ideal fit.
"It’s great for them to come into this city and want to partner with a local sports foundation or a hockey club and split the proceeds," Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson said during the radiothon in thanking the Hockey Canada Foundation and Hockey Canada for their support.
"This is something in the capital right downtown that people will be able to come and enjoy every day for five months (from November to March). I think it’s going to be a really great community meeting space, a really nice opportunity for children and youth and their families to come down and experience skating." - Danielle Robinson
Also in the same vein, Hockey Canada Foundation board member Allan Matthews announced today a $10,000 to assist Almonte-Pakenham minor hockey.
The Rink of Dreams is designed to be an artificial outdoor facility with its own refrigeration system, which will be professionally maintained by a Zamboni. That makes it far less susceptible to the whims of Mother Nature during an Ottawa winter.
"What that allows is for a consistent ice surface throughout the winter season," said Robinson. "So really it’s almost an indoor ice quality of experience, but it’s outside in the downtown core ... it’s going to provide one of the largest ice surfaces in all of the region for people to come and skate every single day. While we’re aware that the (Rideau) Canal is located close by, it’s very weather dependent, as are the 300 community rinks in this region.
"This is something in the capital right downtown that people will be able to come and enjoy every day for five months (from November to March). I think it’s going to be a really great community meeting space, a really nice opportunity for children and youth and their families to come down and experience skating."
Senators president Cyril Leeder said he hopes skating at the Rink of Dreams will become "one of the must-dos" for tourists visiting the city in the winter.
"We hope it will be a real people place and right at City Hall couldn't be a better place for that," he said. "We hope most of the time it's used for free skating, so it'll be open to all the residents of the community. But we hope there will be some hockey scheduled and played there as well."
The Senators and Sens Foundation plan to use the rink for a number of community programs such as I Love To Skate, an initiative unveiled earlier this year in partnership with the city and Canadian Tire Jumpstart.
"The thing that we’re going to be doing as we move forward on this rink in our next season is partnering with school boards and schools that are in priority neighbourhoods to get kids out and learning how to skate on this rink," said Robinson. "We'll have skills workshops, provide them with an opportunity and get them into skates with helmets on just to experience what skating is like.
"It’s a great Canadian passion and pastime, and it’s something we want to do in the heart of Ottawa."
The Rink of Dreams is likely to become a centrepiece of NHL All-Star Weekend celebrations next January.
"We're hoping we can have some kind of tie-in with the all-star game, so we can showcase the new facility," said Leeder. "So that's why we're in a bit of a rush here to get this thing going. It's a tight schedule, so we have to complete the fundraising in the next few weeks and then get the approvals done and get started in the fall. It's ambitious, but we think we can get it done."
To support the Rink of Dreams, call into the radiothon at 613-239-4044 or visit www.sensfoundation.com
to make a pledge. An online auction, featuring autographed jerseys from a number of prominent National Hockey League stars, is also underway to support the project. Click here
to submit a bid or browse the available merchandise.