A rink at the end of its lifecycle, known to bring community together, faces another year of wear before it’s potentially made anew.

This story also appeared in LiveWire Calgary

Since 2020, the Sandstone MacEwan Community Association (SMCA) has been trying to rebuild the community’s rink. 

The Sandstone MacEwan rink was built in 1991 and has been a well-loved gathering place for the community. At the beginning of 2018, the association examined what aspects of the rink needed to be upgraded or replaced. However, in the winter of 2020, it became apparent that the rink was at the end of its lifecycle and would need a complete rebuild. 

“MacEwan is one of our older communities, and it’s important that we replace entities as they age. This rink is at that point of requiring some lifecycle maintenance and the volunteers have identified that and are working hard to replace it,” said Ward 3 Coun., Jasmine Mian. 

Moving forward, the association put forth a survey to gather feedback on the rebuild proposal. Of the 80 that participated in the survey, 72 said they had used the rink surface for various sports and 100 per cent of respondents were in support of the rebuild. 

SMCA originally anticipated that the rink rebuild would start in 2022 upon provincial grant approval. However, in June of 2022, the association announced that construction will begin in the summer of 2023. 

After a year of fundraising and applying for grants, June 2023 arrived and SMCA had yet to reach its fundraising target of $750,000. Being $300,000 short of their goal, SMCA postponed the rink rebuild until 2024.  

“[SMCA] have applied for countless grants both through the city and external agencies. They’ve been doing lots of fundraising within the community and overall [they’re] just very committed to bringing a new rink to Sandstone MacEwan,” said Mian. 

Sandstone MacEwan Community Rink in Calgary on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

City support

Tina Brillantes, Team Lead of Neighbourhood Partnership Coordinators for the City of Calgary explained that engaging and supporting community associations is part of her team’s role. In direct correlation with the rink rebuild project, Brillantes said that the city offers community associations access to the Community Capital Conservation Grant to maintain or replace lifecycle items. 

The grant can be applied for and allotted yearly, however, the City of Calgary will only endorse 75 per cent of a project’s budget, leaving the community association responsible for the other 25 per cent. 

The Neighbourhood Partnership coordinators continue to stay in direct contact with the community association in order to help them reach their goal. They consult on the design and assist with potential grants communities can apply for to reach their goal. 

“City support is monetary, but we also have staff, facility operations coordinator and grant coordinators [that] are constantly in touch with the group…it’s just the regular ongoing relationship that we have with groups,” said Brillantes. 

Moving forward with the project

Jennifer Bidlake-Schroeder, co-chair of the Rink Rebuild Committee for SMCA said that their community is fairly small, consisting roughly of 12,000 members. There are few free recreational facilities in the area, which is why the rink rebuild is so important. 

“It’s used constantly in the winter and in the summer by all sorts of different individuals and groups…we really want to be able to maintain that use and hopefully increase it by having a facility that’s in better shape,” said Bidlake-Schroeder.

The rink commonly hosts individuals all year long from hockey in the winter to basketball programs in the summer. 

“These types of spaces, this is what brings us together, gives us that great sense of connection and social cohesion,” said Coun. Mian. 

Moving forward, the Rink Rebuild Committee plans to assess all possible funding opportunities like corporate sponsorship and city and provincial grants. Bidlake-Schroeder also said that the committee hopes to explore more fundraising opportunities, however, being such a small team of volunteers, it has always been a struggle. 

Bidlake-Schroeder said that although the postponement of the rink rebuild is frustrating, they’ve had great support from the city and just need increased participation from the community. 

​​”We’d love it if the community would band together even more to try to help us be successful,” said Bidlake-Schroeder.

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Isabella West is a fourth-year Journalism student at MRU. She completed her work term over the summer of 2023 at LiveWire Calgary in partnership with the Calgary Journal.