Construction is moving ahead on a new arena at the University of Saskatchewan.
Home Ice Campaign Chair Tim Hodgson hinted at a Friday announcement by the U of S after seeing Ward 1 Councillor Darren Hill rescind a motion to reconsider municipal funding for the project.
A few minutes later it was confirmed by Mayor Charlie Clark.
“There’s a ground-breaking happening this Friday,” he said. “The wheels are in motion for this facility to be built.”
Starting construction this spring would put the arena on pace for a fall 2018 opening.
Merlis Belsher Place is set to feature two ice pads, including 3,500 seats for the main rink. It will replace the 88-year-old Rutherford Rink as home of the Huskies hockey program.
The university has promised to provide 1,500 hours of ice time per year to Saskatoon’s minor hockey teams.
A gymnasium for team and community use, as well as change rooms for the soccer programs, are also included in the plans.
$3M council funding stands
The $41-million facility avoided a funding shortfall from council Monday night after Councillor Hill rescinded his motion to push back consideration of $3 million in city funding from the project.
He announced the withdrawal seven hours into the general meeting, waiting for council to confirm their handling of provincial budget pressures to make a final decision.
“The province’s decision to impose a deficit on the citizens of Saskatoon, with no advance communication, should not impact a prior council decision whether I agree with the timing or not,” he told council chambers.
Hill added he wished the council agenda had allowed for his decision to rescind to be announced sooner, as supporters for the arena sat in the gallery from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. waiting for the matter to come up for debate.
Hodgson said while he ideally would’ve liked the decision to be made sooner, he’s glad for the result.
“If nothing else I got to learn more about civic politics,” he joked.
“I’m a little smarter today.”
The $3 million goes directly towards the Home Ice Campaign’s fundraising campaign, bringing them within $540,000 of their $29 million goal.
Council’s contribution is being spread over six years.
An additional $1 million is being provided through a city grant made available to any organization that builds an additional ice surface for public use.
The remaining $11 million is set to be provided by the university.