Although there was a lot of disappointment Saturday night in Ste. Anne after losing the Kraft Hockeyville grand prize of $250,000 to save their arena, Mayor Yvan St. Vincent says the experience has been great.
“I can’t actually remember in my 51 years in Ste. Anne being part of anything like this,” he says. “I'm sure things have happened, but for my memory, I can't think of an event that's galvanized not only this community, the town and the R.M. of Ste. Anne, but of course just all of Manitoba. And seeing people that had lived in this area at one time and moved away making comments on Facebook and Twitter and all those kinds of things, it was actually kind of overwhelming how it played itself out.”
St. Vincent says this rally brought thousands of people together with a lot of enthusiasm to save the arena, which is old and in need of repair.
He feels they made a good push and there was a lot of surprise when Ste. Anne was not named the grand prize winner.
“The $250,000 would have been outstanding and the recognition would have been outstanding,” he admits. “But I think now, with this momentum we've got, we can probably raise that and far more, if need be.”
St. Vincent says closing the arena is not an option.
“If we're going to close the arena, then we may as well close the town,” he says. “So, it's just simply not an option and we will 100 percent find a way (to keep it open).”
The town needs $300,000 for the ice plant alone. St. Vincent says the R.M. of Ste. Anne has already committed $75,000 toward that expense.
“And we’ve applied for grants, stainability grants with the province for that. So, we're hoping to get some help with that. And then longer term, we keep putting band aids on it just kind of hoping that everything will be OK from one year to the next.”
With this newfound momentum, St. Vincent is confident they will find a way to get the money to make sure the Maurice Chaput Arena is ready to go for the upcoming winter.
The newly created Recreation Steering Committee will hold its inaugural meeting Wednesday evening and the mayor is excited about the future of recreation.
Looking back at the whole experience of competing in Kraft Hockeyville, rallying the troops, and having fun while raising awareness of their bid to win the big prize, St. Vincent says it has been great to be part of it all.
“We can't thank everybody enough,” he says. “Sarah Normandeau is one, I know there's a lot of people who did a lot of things, especially in such a short amount of time. And I truly do think that in the end this is probably what we needed, in a strange way, to be part of this, to see that there is this big demand and this big interest in making sure that our arena stays open.”
St. Vincent says there has not always been a lot of interest in helping keep the arena open, but after seeing the recent community response, he has a different view on the issue.
“After seeing what happened, particularly these last two days of voting, it's clear that if we put the call out that we want to do something to improve our rec. especially the arena, then we're going to get lots of participation and interest and help in that.”
Ste. Anne does not walk away from the competition empty handed; the town will receive $25,000 is arena upgrades for finishing in the top four.
West Lorne, Ontario was crowned Kraft Hockeyville 2023.
St. Vincent notes that a Manitoba community has yet to win the big prize and he is hopeful for next year.
“I hope someone from Manitoba tries again next year. We can certainly share our experience with them, and I think Manitoba is due, so the odds might be even better in their favour.”
-With files from Carly Koop