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.
“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.”
The multi-sport facility features two full-size ice surfaces and two full-size basketball courts, as well as dressing rooms for Huskie hockey, basketball and soccer teams, in addition to spaces earmarked for alumni, officials, physiotherapy services, Campus Recreation and a dozen dressing rooms for community groups and teams. The main arena will initially feature seating for 2,614, with 3,546 in total following the completion of Phase 2 of the project.
The project kicked off on Oct. 13, 2016, with an historic $12.25-million contribution from Belsher, an accomplished local accountant, businessman, and philanthropist who provided the largest single donation from an alumnus in U of S history.
Fundraising through the Home Ice Campaign—which featured former Huskie and long-time Canadian Olympic hockey coach Dave King serving as honourary chairperson—wrapped up in the spring of 2017 after reaching its goal of $29-million. That total included a $4-million commitment from the City of Saskatoon, $2.51-million raised by Huskie hockey alumni members, $1-million from Wright Construction and the Wright family, and $1-million from the owners of College Hotels LP, with 475 donors in all contributing to the project.
Meanwhile, long-time U of S supporters and alumni Ron and Jane Graham, who have given close to $20-million over the years to the university, donated $4-million to fund construction of the new basketball facilities at Merlis Belsher Place.
In addition to providing ice time for local minor hockey teams, the new multi-sport facility will be able to host local, regional and national sport competitions including sledge hockey, and will also be available for U of S convocation ceremonies, concerts and community events.
Written by James Shewaga