Andy Haworth grew up donning the Rangers jersey, slicing through the frozen air and chasing pucks between the battered boards behind the Garden City Community Centre.
On Fri., June 14, he’ll have a shovel in hand to turn the sod on a new, $17-million arena complex that will become the new home ice for Garden City’s growing hockey and ringette programming, and turn the centre into a sports hub for the burgeoning northwest quadrant of Winnipeg.
"It’s hard to envision tearing down this rink and building a new centre," Haworth said last week ahead of the event, which will include a barbecue and open house on the project.
"This is opening up and giving people a huge view of the next 12 months as we’re growing and putting this twin-plex together."
Nova-Con Projects is expected to begin building the complex, dubbed Seven Oaks Arena for now, in July or August, with construction completed in time for September 2014, Haworth said.
The 100,000-sq.-ft. complex will have two rinks that will run year-round and will provide much needed ice time for teams in the community.
Garden City club teams, about 160 players across 10 teams in all, currently play their home games scattered across the city, and often travel as far away as Garson on Sunday nights just to practice, according to Haworth.
"It’s crazy times, but you have to take what you can get," he said.
The arenas, with seating for about 500 spectators each, will also become home to the Seven Oaks Hockey Academy and the school division’s learn to skate programs.
The club is also trying to land the Raiders Junior Hockey Club of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League.
On top of that, the club has landed NRG Athletes Therapy Fitness to anchor the centre’s second floor.
"We’re making this a sports quadrant," Haworth said, noting the hard work of his board members. "It’s a proud achievement."
Scott Miller, NRG chief executive officer and a Garden City resident, said northwest Winnipeg lacks a centre tailored toward high-performance athletes, both in their development and rehabilitation, in hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, football, and soccer.
Beyond its range of physiotherapy programs, it also offers personal and private training and fitness boot camps, Miller said.
"I was born and raised playing sports in this area, I definitely have a feel of what’s out there and what’s missing," Miller added.
"We thought it would be a great one-stop shop to offer our services to public and surrounding sports groups."
The complex is part of a city plan to close several older arenas and replace them with more centralized multiplexes. The city is spending $9 million on upgrades to the East End Community Centre in Transcona as part of that plan.
Old Exhibition Arena on Sinclair Street, along with Roland Michener arena in Transcona and Vimy Arena in St. James-Assiniboia, are slated to close once the new arenas open.
Details on the closure of Old Exhibition and the transfer of its programming are still being worked out, the city said.
Garden City sees about 112,000 visitors each year and that’s expected to double once the arenas are open, Haworth said. That means the club is going to be hiring a number of new hands, from managers to caretakers to icemakers, he said.
"We’re going to be needing all the help we can get."
The club is responsible for $5.2 million of the new facility’s pricetag, with the city and province kicking in equal amounts.
The club is planning several fundraisers and socials, along with selling advertising and sponsorships to fund its portion of the project, Haworth said.
The sod-turning will take place Fri., June 14 from 4 to 4:30 p.m. The open house and barbecue (items will cost $1 each) will follow until 7 p.m.
The club is located at 725 Kingsbury Ave.
For more info, visit www.gardencitycc.com or call 204-940-6111.