Merlis Belsher Place construction hits halfway mark

Members of the media received a sneak-peek tour Tuesday of how the state-of-the-art Merlis Belsher Place facility is coming along, with construction now 50 per cent complete and on track to open the doors this fall. The $42.9-million multi-sport complex will serve as the new home for Huskies hockey teams, as well as brand-new basketball practice facilities for the U of S teams. In addition, the new facility will welcome community groups, including offering a much-needed 1,500 hours of ice time annually for Saskatoon Minor Hockey teams.

See more construction photos in the U of S Flickr gallery.

“It is great to note that we are now halfway through construction, so if things keep progressing as they have, it is safe to say that we are actually a little ahead of schedule,” said U of S President Peter Stoicheff. “Merlis Belsher Place is such an important facility, not just for the university, but for our entire community. This is an exciting project and we are looking forward to opening this remarkable facility in the fall.”

President Stoicheff, major donor Merlis Belsher and Lorne Wright of Wright Construction, the local company completing the building, led the media tour of the new complex. Construction on Merlis Belsher Place, which will replace the aging Rutherford Rink that was built back in 1929, began in April of 2017 and is projected to be completed this fall, with the official grand opening celebrations expected in early 2019.

Belsher was thrilled to see first-hand the progress that has been made on the facility that will be named in his honour.

“It’s truly a multi-purpose facility, so I am overwhelmed, actually. It’s great,” said Belsher. “And I think the comment about the community and the City of Saskatoon, and their engagement to get behind it so (construction) could be commenced last May, I think that was critical to why we’re at this stage today … I never would have imagined, when I was first approached, that it would be this kind of a facility.”
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Home Ice volunteer, Kelsey Hahn

What do hockey and business have in common? For Kelsey Hahn (BComm’12), they both build character.

Hahn is a young business-professional in downtown Calgary where she manages Viewpoint Research, a Canadian-based leadership centre. She is quick to point out that her success as a professional has come from learned-traits that have stuck since her time as a Huskie athlete.

Kelsey Hahn played on the Women’s Ice Hockey Huskies team from 2007-2012

“From teaching me about time management, determination and focus, to teamwork and leadership skills, the diligence of playing a sport taught me more than any textbook ever did,” Hahn explains. “Being a student-athlete built a solid foundation for my life and subsequent career path —I owe more than I can ever repay to the game, to Huskie Athletics, and to the University of Saskatchewan.”

For many athletes, it’s the games they won and the moments of fierce competition that stick in their memories, but for Hahn, she fondly remembers the time spent in-between.

“I can remember pitching in as a team to shovel the ice in between men’s and women’s practices, when the ice plant and Zamboni broke down,” she recalls. “Looking back now, I feel lucky to have gotten to be a part of the tail-end of Rutherford’s history, though the next generation of Huskie athletics is very lucky to be able to use and enjoy a new world-class facility.”

It was a natural move for Hahn to get involved with the Home Ice Campaign as a way to pay tribute to her alma mater. After a number years of attempts with a campaign for a new rink, Hahn credits President Stoicheff for the support that began to build momentum with a number of dedicated individuals. With the support of fellow volunteers in Calgary — in particular, team lead, Dell Chapman — Hahn visited various alumni, business leaders, community members, and “friends of the Huskies” in Calgary to share the news about the rink and seek support for the project.

As the only women’s Huskie alumna in the group, she was thrilled to meet with lots of current and former women’s team supporters. “Being a part of such a devoted and strong group of volunteers has been one of the most rewarding experiences. Our Calgary team was full of very busy, yet selfless individuals who committed many hours to the campaign. I was amazed at how deep the alumni roots ran for these people.”

For Hahn, the engagement of supporters speaks volumes to the community that the Huskies has created, not just in the hearts of former and existing players, but in those who choose to rally around an asset to the province. “When I think about Merlis Belsher Place finally becoming a reality, I am also reminded of the incredible alumni, donors, and Huskie community that stepped up to make this possible,” she says. “Mr. Belsher in particular who was, and continues to be, a true passionate champion throughout the campaign. The generosity and comradery of Saskatchewan people is an amazing thing. Huskie Athletics have a bright and promising future enabled by this new facility.”