|Two youngsters cheer the opening of the Rink of Dreams, ant outdoor refrigerated ice facility that will operate from November to March each year in front of Ottawa City Hall (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
Dreams really can come true.
Just ask the hardy crowd that gathered on a frosty Wednesday evening to witness the official opening of the Rink of Dreams, a 12,500-square foot outdoor refrigerated ice facility at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall that figures to become a new downtown magnet for residents and tourists alike.
That this project — the result of a partnership between the Ottawa Senators, the Sens Foundation, the City of Ottawa and the Hockey Canada Foundation — sprung to life on the eve of 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend in the nation's capital made the occasion all the more special.
"It is a proud night for the hockey club," Senators president Cyril Leeder said of the launch of the artificial ice surface after seven months of planning and four months of construction work. "The Rink of Dreams will be a fantastic legacy project that truly was built by the community for the community. I know I look forward to skating on this rink. My children will skate on this rink and hopefully, my grandchildren will have an opportunity to skate on this rink one day.
"It’s here for a number of good reasons and I want the community to enjoy this. A lot of effort and time went into making the Rink of Dreams (a reality)."
Senators players Erik Karlsson
and Milan Michalek
— both of whom will take part in all-star events this weekend — were on hand for the opening, along with head coach Paul MacLean and general manager Bryan Murray. Michalek spoke with amazement about an ice rink the likes of which he wasn't used to seeing while growing up in the Czech Republic.
"We usually skated on lakes and stuff," said Michalek, who will play in his first NHL all-star game on Sunday at Scotiabank Place (4 p.m., CBC). "We didn’t have this, so it’s kind of neat to see it. This is great. The ice is really nice and they did a great job."
The Rink of Dreams is the second-largest community project ever undertaken by the Sens Foundation, trailing only Roger's House in terms of its scope. While the City of Ottawa contributed $250,000 to the project and will operate the rink, the Sens Foundation, along with local partners and construction companies, will foot the bill for the rest of the nearly $2 million in design and construction costs.
Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson credited the Hockey Canada Foundation with giving the Rink of Dreams a necessary kick start. That group held its annual gala in Ottawa last June 26, and contributed $420,000 of the proceeds toward the Rink of Dreams.
"In our 20-year history, the Ottawa Senators and the Sens Foundation have invested more than $65 million to various community programs and initiatives," said Robinson. "We’re only able to enjoy this kind of success because of the partnerships we enjoy with corporate and municipal partners, community organizations and most importantly, with our fans.
"The partnership with Hockey Canada was the thing that really launched this rink into becoming a reality. Their $420,000 of seed money to get this going has really been incredible."
Tonight's opening marks the beginning of a long-term commitment by the Sens Foundation to build 20 community rinks throughout the Ottawa-Gatineau region. That number happens to fall in line with the Senators' current 20th anniversary season celebrations.
"We at the Sens Foundation and Senators Sports and Entertainment believe this is a great legacy gift to leave our community and a wonderful way to kick off our rink-building programs," said Robinson. "Most importantly,it's a way for the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club and the Sens Foundation to say thank you to a region that has supported more than 20 years of NHL hockey in the capital."
It's also a welcome addition to the landscape on Laurier Avenue in front of City Hall. The Rink of Dreams will offer free public skating from November to March each winter, then revert back to a community space during the summer months. Unlike the Rideau Canal, which is subject to the whims of Mother Nature, ice can be made at the Rink of Dreams in temperatures as high as 10 C.
"It’s finally here and we are so delighted, because this has been a dream for many of us who have wanted to animate this part of City Hall," said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. "Today, the Rink of Dreams becomes reality as it officially opens to the public. It will be a city-wide asset that will help revitalize our downtown core and it will offer predictable and reliable skating for both children and adults from November to March."