The Strathcona Paper Centre opens doors in Napanee.
When Greater Napanee’s council first proposed the idea of a new multi-purpose sports arena, the reaction was mixed between those for and against. Some residents weren't sure a complex like the one proposed was needed for the area.
Despite the skepticism, the idea was given the green light and the $9.8 million Strathcona Paper Centre opened on . Since then, it has been a catalyst for both economic prosperity and recreational enjoyment.
Just four years ago the site now located on McPhearson Drive was a vast open field that ran along side the 401. Since the arrival of the Strathcona Paper Centre, several other businesses have been built on the adjacent parking lot hoping to piggyback off the arena’s success.
“It brought commercial development to our town that previously wasn’t that viable,” says Stephen Paul, manager of economic development for Lennox and Addington county.
Prior to the arena’s arrival, Napanee’s downtown was the community’s only major shopping area. Now, the unused-space-turned-arena has become another draw, boasting a hotel, restaurants and brand name stores, all while keeping the community’s unique and friendly small-town identity.
But the effect of the Strathcona Paper Centre can be felt beyond the commercial development. With two NHL-sized ice rinks, the building has become the home of the local Junior B team, the Napanee Raiders, and is also enjoyed at the minor hockey level as well, with a number of Napanee District Minor Hockey Association teams making use of the rinks.
“If you look at the overall growth of hockey, particularly women’s hockey, the venue has really helped with that,” says Paul. “With an additional rink it allows more opportunities for kids to participate in recreational activities.”
The Strathcona Paper Centre is also equipped for other sports as well. This past summer it hosted a major shuffleboard tournament, and it has helped ignite a new passion for soccer in the area with a full-sized field. In its short life span it has hosted everything from blood drives to classic car shows and has quickly established itself as an important part of the community.
For those who travel east to Napanee, the Strathcona Paper Centre is the first thing they see as they drive along Canada’s busiest highway. It has become somewhat of a landmark in the town, complete with its own sports wall of fame, honouring those who made a significant impact on Napanee’s storied sporting community.
The new arena is a vast improvement over the old one, which contained only one rink and much less seating. Paul says without the construction of the new state-of-the-art facility, there was no way a major event like the National Women’s Under-18 Championship would have been able to be hosted in Napanee.
“We look at this as a terrific opportunity to showcase the town and the community, and we are certainly striving to put on a first-class event,” says Paul.
A successful tournament would no doubt be a great selling point for future tournament organizers who may want to bring events to Greater Napanee. The arena has become the building that keeps on giving as it continues to grow the town both commercially and athletically.