Members of the Manitoba sledge hockey team practised on one rink and the Winnipeg Blues on another as a ribbon was cut Friday morning to officially open the $26.6-million MTS Iceplex.
The four-rink complex for professional and amateur hockey had its official grand opening, with special guests including a premier, a federal and provincial cabinet minister and members of two local high school hockey teams.
"We were standing in a field less than a year ago," said Mark Chipman, chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment, owners of the facility. It's located on Portage Avenue just beyond the Perimeter adjacent to Assiniboia Downs and his family-owned Pointe West Auto Mall. "They built this place, remarkably, on time and on budget."
The complex first opened its doors in August with two rinks while work continued.
Chipman acknowledged that the complex was only possible with the financial contribution of the provincial and federal governments, which picked up 44 per cent of the project cost in exchange for guaranteeing use of the facility by amateur and recreational teams.
The facility will become the practice rink for the AHL Manitoba Moose, also owned by Chipman's company, and it will provide between 20,000 and 22,000 hours annually of ice time to amateur sports.
Premier Greg Selinger, who took part in the ceremony, said the details on the public access agreement to the complex are being finalized but he praised the project as an opportunity to provide needed recreational facilities for the public.
"We need lots of recreational opportunities in this city and this province," Selinger said.
The complex features four NHL-sized rinks on the main level, with a restaurant and bar on the second level.
The complex is also home to the Winnipeg Blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, hockey teams from St. Paul's High School and Balmoral Hall, and several minor hockey associations and recreational leagues.
Area Tory MP Steven Fletcher, the minister of state for democratic reform, praised the project as an excellent example of the private and public sectors working together for the community's benefit.
"This is a good day for amateur athletes," Fletcher said.
The entire complex is heavily sponsored, with the names of local businesses plastered on the rink boards. Even the four rinks are named after local businesses: RE/MAX, the Assiniboine Credit Union, Red River Co-op, and the Winnipeg Free Press.
The facility has also secured the Hockey Canada Centre of Excellence title.
The only part of the complex still to be completed is the 350-seat restaurant and bar.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.