The cash, originally announced last November, will cover about 25 per cent of the new facility for Canada’s national men’s and women’s hockey teams.
The facility will be built in Calgary at Canada Olympic Park, where many of the 1988 Winter Olympic sports were held. It will include both an Olympic-sized hockey rink and a smaller, NHL-sized rink, as well as office space for Hockey Canada.
Hockey Canada’s staff has nearly tripled since moving from Ottawa in 1998 and the current facility on the University of Calgary campus is too old and too small, Nicholson said.
“When you start to look at what the U.S. is doing with their hockey teams, what Finland’s doing, what Sweden’s doing, we’re a long ways behind right now. And our athletes, in this case hockey players, deserve a lot better when they put on the Canadian jersey.”
Hockey Canada’s goal is to have the facility paid for and built in time for teams to move in by Sept. 2009 to train for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Alberta’s cash – $40 million right now and the remaining $29 million over the next two years – won’t get them to that goal alone.
The plan goes to Calgary’s city council for approval in early September and Nicholson said it also requires a similar financial boost from Ottawa to succeed.
“We want this to be a shrine for Hockey Canada. We want to make sure that any time that an Olympic athlete – male or female – comes into this, they see the history, all the gold medals. We want it to be special.”
Nicholson said the other half of the funding will come from corporate sponsors. They plan to sell the naming rights to the complex and launch a Canada-wide campaign.
Cassie Campbell, former captain of Canada’s Olympic gold medal-winning women’s hockey team, said the new facilities would allow athletes to be more competitive internationally.
“A facility like this is about 2010 and beyond. We need to look at, ‘What are we doing for our young athletes?’ “
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said while the cash was “a significant commitment,” it was still a good investment.
“It’s going to help ensure our athletes have every opportunity to be their best, including those competing at the 2010 Winter Olympics.”