It was a good day for Rankin Inlet.

The $26-million ‘new’ arena – a 950-seat multi-use facility complete with concession stands, volleyball courts, and of course, a hockey rink – was formally dedicated as the Agnico Eagle Arena Oct. 6.

Over 2,000 people attended the dedication ceremony for the state-of-the-art facility, which has become a “focal point” for the community, said Darren Flynn, Rankin Inlet’s senior administrative officer.

The hamlet treated all attendees to a barbecue. It also gave out about $30,000 in draw prizes including a Honda ATV, a 65-inch television and a number of $1,000 gift cards.

Flynn said “the community is rightfully proud of,” and “quite excited about” the long-awaited and much-anticipated facility.

While the old hockey rink was a seasonal facility, the new arena will be open for about 11 months of the year, aside from when its playing surface is being converted from ice to turf or back again.

“The nice thing about this building is from mid-October until the beginning of April it is an ice rink,” said Flynn. “Once that season is over it converts and we’ve got a number of different platforms to use there right now.”

The hamlet recently acquired a volleyball court “so that large tournaments can be hosted in there,” and artificial turf for summer soccer.

“We are fortunate we have some really good recreational recreation staff here,” said Flynn. “We have David Clark, who has been recreation director here for pretty much 15 years, and they do an awesome job trying to meet the needs and expectations of the sporting community.”

In addition, the facility has a much greater seating capacity than the old arena, “so once we get past all these Covid restrictions, it’s going to make for quite a gathering place. It also affords itself as an exceptional venue for holding events such as trade shows or conferences.”

The hamlet began looking for a corporate sponsor to buy the naming rights to the arena in 2019. Agnico Eagle Mines acquired the naming rights to the facility and earlier this year, a 10-year/$500,000 sponsorship deal was reached between the company and the hamlet.

“Basically, it’s a 10-year agreement where AEM will pay the community $50,000 a year, or $500,000 over the 10-year life of the agreement,” explained Flynn.

“That’s huge for Rankin Inlet,” he continued. “For facilities in much larger towns and cities that are getting corporate sponsorship, I don’t know that they’re getting it at that premium.”

As arenas are “very, very expensive to operate” the sponsorship deal will help the hamlet provide more services at lower prices, said Flynn.

“One of the things we do here is we don’t charge ice time to our minor hockey association,” he said. “The result is we’re able to register kids for $150 a year, the bulk of which is minor hockey insurance, so it gives council a lot of flexibility in being able to help the community be more active and take part in healthy activities, such as hockey, soccer and everything else.”

Future upgrades to the facility are being considered, said Flynn, including a second floor above the existing lobby that could be turned into commercial real estate or an added viewing area.

In addition, hockey season is just around the corner, he said.

“We’ve had a crew in, doing the ice plant start-up just these past five days,” he said. “Last night the recreation department started laying down the first layer of water. So, I expect by the end of the weekend, we’ll probably have most of the ice completed. And towards the end of the month, we’ll kick off officially with a hockey camp.”

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