A lot has been said, written and talked about from the arena perspective as the grand old lady on the hill lumbers through her final season before passing the puck off to the brand new arena for the 2019-2020 season in Rankin Inlet.
Combined with the attached community hall, tiny curling rink, and local radio station nestled upstairs, the grand old lady has given a lot more to the community of Rankin than great hockey games – and it promises to still deliver more.
Mike Shouldice has seen many a Kivalliq winter in Arviat and Rankin Inlet.
Shouldice said if you stand back and look at all that goes on in Rankin, it wouldn’t be hard to name the heart of the community.
He said other venues play vital roles – grocery stores, fitness centre and school gyms to name but a few – but, somewhat easily, people would name the community hall-arena complex as the heart and soul of the community.
“I would say about 90 per cent of what we do socially from weddings to fundraising, concerts, curling and hockey tournaments – all of the social and recreational activities, the life of the community, happens in that building,” said Shouldice.
“We have a lot of volunteers in this community and, if we didn’t have these people, we’d have no fire department, ambulance service, or organized gymnastic, soccer or hockey programs.
“If it wasn’t for people volunteering their time we wouldn’t have any of those things, so thank goodness they do.
“And much of the related activities revolves around that complex. ”
Shouldice said the second truly significant activity at the complex is fundraising.
He said the hamlet gives the rec department its annual budget, which is enough to pay salaries, cover the heating costs and hold some activities, but fundraising is behind the majority of special initiatives in the community.
“More than a half a million bucks is raised through fundraising in Rankin Inlet every year so people have great activities in the community and can represent Rankin at major events, basically all over Canada now.
“It’s a significant enterprise now, and we see partnerships with the fire department, for example, that’s brought training, equipment and numerous other things to the community.
“Significantly, most of our recreational and social life pivots around that building.
“When you look at our community, especially during the long winter months, without that building where would people go for recreation, socializing and exercise – my goodness, I wouldn’t want to contemplate life in the community without that building.”
Shouldice said the most critical issue hamlet council has to deal with in the immediate future is what to do with the complex when the new arena opens, how to fix it up, grow its programming and decide what to offer in it to meet the needs of the community.
“We’ve had ideas ranging from soup kitchens to a full gym or a children’s indoor playground,” said Shouldice.
“There’s so many good ideas going around, and we’re trying to be as organized about it as possible, but that facility is absolutely critical to the community all year round, but mostly through the fall and winter months.
“And the social-interactive aspect – catching up on the news with neighbours, kids there until 8 p.m. every night, weddings, banquets, socials, dances, consultations, meetings, conferences and concerts – is so significant as be practically immeasurable.
“It’s not just about the hockey rink, which is packed for each of our many tournaments, it’s about the whole social context of the community.”
David Clark has been Rankin’s recreation director for more than a decade and is responsible for booking events at the complex, overseeing its operations, and getting the best out of a facility that’s no longer nearly large enough to meet the community’s needs.
Clark said it can become challenging to accommodate everyone when groups and organizations all want to hold their fundraiser at the complex while a major event is taking place.
He said large events draw big crowds and they’re a big help to the community’s fundraising efforts, but other things matter a great deal too, like the 100 kids he gets at the complex almost every single day learning how to skate, going to public skating, exercising, and simply hanging out and having fun with their friends.
“The community groups and my staff and I do our best to make everybody happy and try to make everything work, but you can only do your best with what you have,” said Clark.
“It’s critical that we have a strong operational plan in place for the old building once the new arena opens.”
Clark said the hamlet is in the process of applying for funding to renovate the community hall side of the complex.
He said renovation and expansion are critical for the complex moving forward.
“We’re trying to obtain the funding necessary to expand our existing community hall and give it a good facelift.
“Programming that will be offered and that type of thing is being handled by council in strong consultation with the community.
“But, right now, funding for renovation and expansion is the biggest concern because there’s no new complex coming to Rankin anytime soon.
“So, when the new arena opens, we have to be able to meet the community’s needs with the existing structure and we just couldn’t do it in its current size and condition.”