Puck drops on new era at Servus Arena

By Sheldon Spackman
January 13, 2018 - 5:49pm Updated: January 13, 2018 - 8:52pm

A new era has begun in Red Deer with the official opening of the new Servus Arena.

Located in downtown Rotary Recreation Park adjacent to the Pidherney Curling Centre, the Servus Arena is a modern, NHL-sized rink constructed to meet environmental and accessibility standards.

Saturday’s official grand opening featured live entertainment, guided tours, free skating and free food. The first official hockey game in the new rink, a Heritage Junior Hockey League game between the Red Deer Vipers and Three Hills Thrashers, goes at 8 p.m. and admission is free.

Highlights of the new digs include room-temperature spectator seating for 1360 fans, an indoor walking track, concession and direct interior connections to the Pidherney Curling Centre next door.

City officials say user groups have larger dressing rooms than in the previous Red Deer Arena which stood on the same spot from 1952 until it was torn down in 2016 due to structural concerns with the roof. The new arena also features access to warm-up areas, skate sharpening and laundry facilities and was built to be conducive to twinning, an option being explored for the future.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says she’s incredibly proud of the city team and project team and everyone involved that helped make this happen.

“There has been such close attention to detail both in the heritage elements but also in terms of new, modernized elements,” explains Veer. “This arena meets modernized sporting standards, it’s built to a higher environmental standard and it certainly positions Red Deer not just for on-ice sports in years to come but for many community events and festivals as well in the future.”

Veer looked back on the critical decision made by City Council a couple of years ago to tear down the old Red Deer Arena and build a new one in its place.

“We had a 64-year-old building that was in need of some updates to safety codes,” she recalled. “But it was recognized that with the 2019 Canada Winter Games coming, that instead of investing in a 64-year-old facility, that it was time to build a modernized facility to modern sports standards.”

Construction of the new Servus Arena began in the Fall of 2016 and was completed at the end of 2017, six months ahead of schedule. Final touches are still underway to fully outfit the building, inclulding parking lot construction and the start of work on a promenade that will eventually tie the south portion of Rotary Recreation Park to the north amenities. Those include the Recreation Centre, Heritage Square, Museum, Golden Circle and Blue Grass Spray Park.

The parking lot construction means the ever popular Public Market will have to spend one more year at the Memorial Centre before returning to the Servus Arena location, its former home for many years.

According to City officials, the total cost of the Servus Arena project including demolition of the old Red Deer Arena came in at $21.6 million. Servus Credit Union secured the naming rights through a one million dollar sponsorship agreement for 15 years. Included in that agreement, Servus has agreed to fund free public skating from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the new rink on the first Thursday of every month during the winter season. The first one takes place February 1.

Garth Warner, President and CEO of Servus Credit Union, says the opening of this new facility is a tremendous feeling.

“It’s part of our DNA to invest in the community and this is such a great fit for us too,” says Warner. “To be able to be a sponsor here and support the community and support the access to the arena, it is a great day for us.”

City officials say many user groups are expected to make good use of the facility, including the Red Deer Vipers Junior B Hockey team and Red Deer Minor Hockey which has leased administration and storage space, as well as a dedicated change room and coaching spaces for the Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Chiefs.

It’s anticipated the new Servus Arena will host many community events in the coming years, in addition to national and international events starting with the U18 Ivan Hlinka Hockey Tournament this August. It will also be home to the Men’s and Women’s hockey competitions during the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

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