Rotary Spirit Centre is officially open
More than 1,000 people attend carnival, dinner
“It’s been quite a journey.”
Spirit of Westlock Foundation president Wayne Peyre was visibly emotional as he addressed the assembled crowd at the official opening of the Westlock Rotary Spirit Centre last Saturday, and after six years of hard work he probably wasn’t the only one.
Many other members of the foundation, which was a driving force for this project right from the beginning, were understandably thrilled that their efforts had come to fruition.
Saturday marked the official grand opening of Westlock’s new recreational facility, and well over 1,000 residents from the town and county gathered to celebrate the occasion, including many of the area’s youth and seniors.
Peyre called the facility “a real” bonus for the Westlock area, noting that amenities like this go a long way to help keep small communities alive and prospering.
“As a region, we are really positioned for growth,” he said.
A family carnival kicked off the festivities in the afternoon, giving kids a chance to see first-hand what the new facility has to offer in terms of fun and games.
“It’s amazing to see how many youth are out today to help open this facility,” town manager Darrell Garceau said.
Activities at the carnival were too many to count, including an obstacle course, some parachute-based games, hula hoops, soccer and crafts. The kids appeared to be thrilled with everything, with very few finding the time to stop to talk.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at 3:30 outside the main entrance, with dignitaries from the town, province and the Spirit of Westlock Foundation on hand.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t start by saying, congratulations!” MLA Maureen Kubinec said, before speaking about how impressed she was with the scale and quality of the amenities in the facility.
“The Westlock Rotary Spirit Centre is going to be a hub for our community.”
Mayor Bruce Lennon echoed those sentiments, noting that like most great accomplishments, the Spirit Centre began with an idea and become something much more.
“This is not just an arena, not just a fieldhouse, but a meeting place in the community,” he said. “We feel the facility will be used by the Town of Westlock for many years to come.”
The main event was a dinner and dance fundraiser in the new arena, which exuded hockey-related charm — especially as comedian Gery Schubert hosted the event as Don Cherry, giving the evening a hockey theme.
Westlock’s most famous hockey player, Kyle Chipchura, briefly took to the stage for an interview with Don Cherry, and he spoke highly of the facility and the community as a whole.
“There’s some great people in this area, and it’s good to be back,” he said.
Musical performances by Jason Hastie and Samara Yung followed, keeping the arena rocking into the wee hours of the morning.
Although final fundraising numbers were not available, foundation fundraising committee co-chair Glenn Baron said he expected the fundraising commitments to reach or exceed the $1.6 million goal by the end of the night, with $1.4 million already collected.
A live auction raised more than $25,000, a silent auction added to that total, and the seat sale table was busy for most of the evening.
Baron said he doesn’t think the fundraising will stop there, however, as seats will be available to purchase for $500 each until they’re all sold.
“We’re hoping that after the facility is open, after they’ve seen it, hopefully people will step up to make a donation,” he said.
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