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Peace prepares to welcome world and upgrade facilities for U17 tournament

Part 1: Encana Events Centre
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 In the first part of the series, we take a look at the upgrades needed at the Encana Events Centre in preparation for hosting the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge this fall. — Ed.

 

The largest hockey tournament the Peace Region has ever hosted is months away, but Dawson Creek isn’t wasting any time. It's getting down to business with upgrades to the Encana Events Centre.

The tournament runs Oct. 30 - Nov. 7.

While Fort St. John’s North Peace Arena works on getting the technology upgrades it requires (more on this later in the series), Dawson Creek’s city-owned Events Centre, where the gold medal game will take place, is in need of more dressing room space and storage.

The city’s solution is to build a new dressing room by extending the building on its north side.

The new room will be large enough to separate into two large dressing rooms for hockey usage, but will also have the ability to open up into one room that could be used as a catering or lounge area for major acts that come to the Events Centre.

The project is estimated to cost between $400,000 - $450,000.

The upgrades needed at both host arenas will come at an additional cost to the $100,000 already paid to Hockey Canada from each city.

But for Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead, “the upside of this is far more significant.”

With the sting finally receding after losing the 2016 IIHF Women’s Under-18 Championship to St. Catharines, Ontario, the Mile 0 City is eager to show it can become a go-to host for more Hockey Canada events.

According to Dawson Creek, Hockey Canada envisions future hosting opportunities at the Events Centre, but told the city that it had concerns the arena may not be able to take them on with the current set up. This was based on issues faced at the facility during the National Women’s Under-18 Championship in 2012.

Even though city council had approved spending for the exact same dressing room improvement project before the city's unsuccessful IIHF bid, new funding proposals have not gone before council at any public meetings.

The arena currently has one large home team dressing room, which was designed for a host tenant.

Four other rooms exist which are “quite small,” according to Barry Reynard, Hockey Canada board member and director of community services for the City of Dawson Creek.

The four smaller rooms can be converted into two larger rooms, for a total of three large dressing rooms. However, Hockey Canada requests a minimum of four large dressing rooms for hockey teams, one large room for the officials and additional storage space.

“When we went from hosting the national [championship] and wanted to go international, there was the expectation that, in order for us to get any of those international bids we would have to have additional dressing room space,” Reynard explained. “But council wouldn't commit the dollars until we were actually able to secure one of the events.”

Encana Events Centre General Manager Ryan McIvor said current dressing room space at the rink is insufficient.

“In order to secure and make this event happen, we have to make enhancements and improvements,” he said. “There is the home team dressing room which is of adequate size, shape, fashion — the whole nine yards. [The others] don't meet the needs for this tournament.”

As far as a construction start date, “you are about three weeks too early,” McIvor said.

Design work is still being finalized.

The fact that the city had the ball rolling on the dressing room expansion was part of the reason the tournament fell into its lap.

The 2015 World U17 Hockey Challenge was originally awarded to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in May.

According to Reynard, Sault Ste. Marie was unable to do what was necessary to secure final contract agreements for the tournament, so Hockey Canada looked elsewhere for a host.

“Hockey Canada was looking for an alternative and we quickly felt we had an option to propose and had the support of council to at least explore that proposal,” Reynard said. “It had to be [approved in closed meetings] just because of the contractual agreement and the sensitivity, probably still, to Sault Ste. Marie.”

The next part of this series will examine the upgrades at the North Peace Arena in Fort St. John.  — Ed.

  dcreporter@dcdn.ca