Expectations may have been too high in the community for any new facility to have a legitimate chance of living up to at first, but no one could have predicted what the first few months of operation held in store for the new Rankin Inlet arena since November of 2019.
Today, thoughts of the new arena are few-and-far between. A far bigger concern has gripped the community. The threat of the novel coronavirus disease that causes COVID-19 possibly showing-up in Rankin has sparked fear in many parts of the hamlet.
Almost everything except essential services has been closed in Rankin and daily life in the community bares little resemblance to that of just a short time ago.
Life does go on, however, and there were significant moments in the early days of the facility’s lifespan, including its first season of hockey beginning. and ending. in disappointment.
The season began with a delayed opening due to problems with an area of the ice surface and came to a close shortly after the Canadian arrival of COVID-19.
Hamlet recreation co-ordinator David Clark said there are some areas still moving forward in which the recreation department was already striving to improve upon.
Clark said he and four others who regularly volunteer their time at the arena – Gabe Karlik, James Sandy, Noel Kaludjak and Cedric Autut – received training on its brand-new PA and sound system this past week.
He said the new system is a more-than-welcome addition to the facility, which should greatly enhance almost every activity to be hosted there.
“I’m not a technical guy with such things, but the new system looks good and sounds great,” said Clark, “It’s nice and simple to operate, the sound is nice and clear, and it has plenty of volume for when it needs to be loud.
“I think there’s about 12 speakers altogether in the rink, with four or five in the lobby. It’s a nice setup that can be controlled in my office, the penalty box area or up in the broadcast booth.
“It was supposed to be ready for the Terence Tootoo Memorial (TTM) and it was, but now there’s no TTM and I find that a little sad.
“Our hockey program is taking a big hit right now with everything being on shutdown, but so is everything else.”
Clark said other events, such as a large square-dance competition later this month, that were scheduled to be held at the arena have also, obviously, been negatively affected by the shutdown.
He said the course of events during the past little while has created an environment he finds both challenging and more-than-a-little weird.
“I come to work every morning and there’s no stack of hockey stuff waiting on my desk that I usually have to deal with this time of year, or things I have to take care of for upcoming events that usually have me working with different committees or groups of people in the community.
“With the remaining hockey tournaments that were scheduled, and events like the big square dance that had groups coming-in from as far away as Gjoa Haven being cancelled, our business community is also taking a huge hit financially from all of this.”
Clark said people can still come to the arena to pick-up their orders at the Slapshot Canteen.
He said that area remains open because the hamlet did not want to hinder owner Chadd Burrill’s initial business efforts.
“We’re taking out the ice this week and we’ll go from there whenever things finally return to normal
“We’ll be notifying the community of the summer schedule for our multipurpose facility once the artificial turf is installed and we’ve finished all our planning, organizing, etc., which includes finding the money to start a new lacrosse program in Rankin.
“We will announce what we can when we can and, hopefully, things will be back to normal soon.”