It was a grand event for a grand project.
Smithers celebrated the grand opening of its new arena last Wednesday in style, with dignitaries, packed bleachers, a surprise performance by local Grammy-winner Alex Cuba, a public skate, and a cake for the building’s official birthday.
The effort to build a second ice sheet has been ongoing for over 20 years. It became a reality in large part thanks to the effort of the Second Sheet of Ice committee, of which Elizabeth Zweck has been a part of for over a decade.
“It kind of chokes you up, actually, after all this time. It’s been a lot of hard work by a lot of people, and it’s really thrilling to see all these people out and see the kids now skating on the ice,” said Zweck.
A large plaque will be installed with all the donor names in February.
“There have been a lot of supporters in the community for a very long time,and they’ve been waiting just for the right time to donate. Once the town committed to the project, they just came out of the woodwork. We had no problem at all going to people and asking them for donations,” said Zweck.
Recognition of the past efforts of others played a big part of the ceremony.
“We ought not to forget that as a community as we move on and face other challenges,” said former mayor Jim Davidson during the ceremony.
A chance meeting in the paint aisle led to Cuba’s performance according to Smithers mayor Taylor Bachrach, who said Cuba immediately agreed to play when asked if he would.
“One of the things we’ve been trying to do is bring the arts into everything that we do,” said Bachrach.
The most important test for the new arena is done by the users.
The Smithers Oldtimers were recognized as a silver donor. Steelheads president and Oldtimer Steve Graf said between shifts Sunday night that he liked having earlier times in the new regulation-size rink, and the effort would be worth it in the long run.
“It’s big for me; a little more exercise,” said Graf.