Alexander Steen is putting his money where his roots are.
The St. Louis Blues forward, who grew up in Winnipeg while his dad, city councillor Thomas Steen, was playing for the Winnipeg Jets, is investing $1 million in a 12,000-square-foot family entertainment centre to be built near the IKEA store in southwest Winnipeg.
The facility, to be called Great Big Adventure, is set to open mid-summer and will feature a 3,500-square-foot play structure, complete with five 4.5-metre slides, a toddler area and a miniature hockey area. It should also employ a staff of about 35 people.
Early-childhood educators will provide programming, and the facility will also host birthday parties, summer camps and mini-stick tournaments. While the kids run around, parents can enjoy a cup of coffee and baked goods from Stella's.
The 29-year-old got the idea after seeing a similar facility in Sweden. (He holds dual Canadian-Swedish citizenship.) His two kids loved it and so did their friends and he thought the concept would work in his hometown.
"I felt it would be a great thing for Winnipeg. It will be a nice, inviting and fun atmosphere. It's fun for me to have an opportunity to do something like this in the city where I grew up," he said.
Steen, who comes back to Winnipeg every summer to visit friends and family and in his role as the president of the Amadeus Steen Foundation, said he hopes to attend the grand opening of Great Big Adventure but it will partly depend on how late into the spring he's playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
He admitted to following the late-season run of the Winnipeg Jets and was disappointed the team was eliminated from the playoff race Thursday night.
"If they had made the playoffs, the city would have been electric. I remember the playoffs when my dad played. They were so much fun," he said.
Steen laughed when asked about IKEA being just a block away from Great Big Adventure.
"It's a really cool, up-and-coming area, especially with IKEA there. It was a good fit for what we wanted to start. We won't be serving Swedish meatballs (like IKEA does), but we'll have some Scandinavian baked goods," he said.
Steen is no stranger to philanthropy. He has worked on behalf of the Amadeus Steen Foundation -- named after his baby brother who died of a heart condition when Alex was just six years old -- since its inception in 2007.