Excitement filled the air at the grand opening of the Fernie Outdoor Rink on Thursday, two months after the tragic ammonia leak that killed three men known in the community.
Funded by the Calgary Flames, hundreds of locals gathered together, dressed in their hockey gear, eager to test out the ice.
Before the skating officially started, a few instrumental figures stepped up to the microphone to say a few words.
Chris Moulton of the Leisure Services Advisory Board was the emcee for the evening and addressed the crowd gathered in front of the rink. Moulton, who was born and raised in Fernie, started off by saying how excited he was to see such a cool attraction in his hometown.
“I wish that something like this was available when I was young, because there’s a really good chance I would have never got off it,” he said.
“Thank you to the Flames Foundation, thank you to all the volunteers and local businesses that worked tenaciously to get this project to where it is, where we could actually skate and go under the lights.”
He gave a special thanks to Chuck Shoesmith and the Lions Club for building the foundation for the outdoor rink. He also thanked Tom Hopkins, who spent many hours flooding and preparing the ice.
He added that in order to keep the rink in quality shape, the whole community must work together in the maintenance of it. He encouraged anyone willing to volunteer their time, to visit the City of Fernie Leisure Services website.
Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano thanked everyone for coming out to the grand opening of the outdoor rink.
When this project was started in late November, the goal was to have hockey in Fernie over the holiday season. Giuliano said they knew this was a lofty goal, but also knew that the community would rally together and make it happen.
“On Oct. 17th, we experienced tragedy here in Fernie. We lost three important members of our community, of our family, and we were left heartbroken,” Giuliano said.
“However, seeing so many members of our Fernie community and extended community come together to create something new and special, so as to allow our kids and youth to continue to skate and play hockey this winter, it’s truly remarkable to see.”
Giuliano recognized the Calgary Flames for their generous donation of an outdoor arena package, supplied by Canadian Arena Products, and for their further donation of funds for further costs incurred. She also sent a heartfelt thanks to many of the local businesses and individuals who donated their time.
Chuck Shoesmith said this project was quite easy, thanks to the endless community support.
“The reason being, is that there was nobody that I asked who said no,” he said. “It was just amazing how many people stepped up to help us out.”
Shoesmith said there could be options further down the road which would extend the life of the arena, if the funding was avaliable. One option would be the installation of a roof over the rink. He said this would make the rink more permanent, and cut down on time spent shoveling snow and maintaining the ice.
Fernie Ghostriders head coach Craig Mohr grew up skating on an outdoor rink, and said it’s great to see one in Fernie. He thanked everyone who made this possible. On behalf of his team, Mohr wished everyone a Merry Christmas, and encouraged the crowd to come on down to Sparwood and watch them play this Friday.
Last night we teamed up with the @CityofFernie to open this outdoor rink in the heart of Fernie. Thanks to the volunteers, Lions Club, @CanadianArena and residents and staff that put it together! #BeTheReason #Flames #FlamesFoundation pic.twitter.com/Zi5PbHDTJc
— Flames Foundation (@FlamesFdn) December 22, 2017
Candice Goudie of the Calgary Flames Foundation, was next to address the crowd.
“The work this community did to get this going in time is nothing short of amazing, and you should be very proud of how you’ve come together to do that,” she said.
Goudie said the first goal of the Flames Foundation is, of course, to win, but their second is to improve the lives of people in their community.
“We think that Fernie is a part of Calgary, and we’re just really pleased to be able to be a part of this,” she said.
The outdoor rink opens every day at sunrise, and the lights will be turned off at 10 p.m. The public is invited to skate at the rink, outside of time allocated for youth programs. Scheduled programming is set to begin early January.