Grant-Harvey Centre set to open in April 2012

Construction continues on the NHL-size ice surface where the Tommies will play next year. (Shane Magee/AQ)

Right now, it’s a pile of mud.

But next year, it will be the ice the Tommies will play their home games on.

The new home for St. Thomas University hockey is expected to be complete in April 2012, according to the city.

“We are excited,” said athletics director Mike Eagles. “It’s a big addition to our program.”

He said with more universities using newer facilities, the Grant-Harvey Centre will “give us the opportunity to get up to the level or surpass the level of facilities that a lot of teams have now.”

The complex, located at 600 Knowledge Park Dr., will feature a 1,500-seat NHL-size ice surface as the main rink, and a 500-seat Olympic-size rink.

The coaches’ offices will be in the building as well as a fitness area.

The new arena helped STU land the women’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport National Championships in March 2014.

The Tommies’ current home is the Lady Beaverbrook Rink, which first opened in 1955.

Eagles said the new building will have features the LBR doesn’t.

“Parking alone will be better for fans. It’ll have glass all the way around versus the end wall at the LBR and higher glass which will make it safer for fans. It has a bigger ice surface, NHL-size, that we’re not playing on right now.

“It’s going to be a real first-class operation.”

On Friday, construction crews were hoisting long insulated panels, which will be both the interior and exterior walls of the building.

They hope to have that work done by Dec. 15 before the worst of the winter weather starts. Then they can work on the interior as the heavy snow starts falling.

Construction of the building, which will cost $29.2 million, remains on budget according to Tony Hay, Fredericton’s assistant director of community services. Hay said the building is on schedule to be finished in April.

He also said the LBR will remain open even with the new Grant-Harvey Centre.

The provincial and federal governments are each contributing $3.5 million to the new building while STU will pay $1.2 million. The city will pay the  other $21 million.

The building name was picked by the city to honour two of Fredericton’s best known professional hockey players – New Brunswick Sports Hall of  Fame members Danny Grant and Buster Harvey.

Moving from the LBR to Grant-Harvey will have one disadvantage: with STU athletics focusing on getting more fans to games, the rink will be five km from campus with no direct bus route.

Manager of Fredericton Transit Sandy MacNeill said there have been preliminary discussions about a bus route.

“We’ve talked about adjusting an existing route to go down Knowledge Park Drive so it would go by Grant-Harvey,” said MacNeill.

He said because the building isn’t directly beside the road, there wouldn’t be a bus stop directly beside the building.

No final decisions have been made and he said there likely won’t be any changes until the fall.

Eagles said while there have been a few delays – at first, he thought they might be in the building by 2009 – he will be happy to see the puck drop for the first game next September.

“It’s been a long time coming, the city has been talking about rinks for a while and there have been a few delays…but I’m absolutely thrilled our programs are going to go in to this new facility,” Eagles said.

Fredericton High School will also use the building for their games.

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