While the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge has long been known as a showcase of the game's future stars, the hosts of the 2011 event will be having showcases of their own – showing off their brand-new hockey facilities.
Both Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie, Man., are home to new buildings, both opened in 2010, in hopes of garnering some recognition as viable host sites for large-scale events, as well as servicing the communities and surrounding areas.
The MTS IcePlex is located at the edge of Winnipeg's city limits, adjacent to an auto mall and horse racing track. Its four NHL-sized ice sheets are home to the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose, who use the building as their primary practice facility, and to the Winnipeg Blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
High school teams, minor sports teams and recreational hockey all also operate inside the $26.6 million facility.
Owned by the Manitoba Moose's parent company, True North Sports and Entertainment, the arena is touted to provide approximately 20,000 hours of ice annually devoted to amateur sport.
As one of the host facilities of the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, the rink boats plenty of amenities, including a 350-seat restaurant-bar, full view of all four ice sheets from the lobby, and a convenient location just west of Winnipeg's city centre, and within minutes of the Perimeter Highway.
“As part of our bid package for the 2010 World Juniors, we had planned to build a twin,” explained True North’s chairman, Mark Chipman. “The idea came from the obvious need for more ice, and future studies determined that four would be better than two.”
The site was chosen for its location as well as availability of land and the building was erected in less than a year.
Chipman said the building is unique in that it is the only four-plex in the province and has already fulfilled its need in the community as nearly all ice times are being used. "Our prime-time ice is all spoken for and our early mornings are busy as well," he said.
About 70 kilometers west of the IcePlex lies the small city of Portage la Prairie. The new multi-purpose facility in Portage, the PCU Centre, sits upon a peninsula known as Island Park, which juts into a horseshoe-shaped lake, aptly named Crescent Lake.
With views of the waterfront from inside the facility's main arena, and a picturesque setting, nestled next to the fairgrounds and golf course, the PCU Centre features two NHL-sized rinks, a pool with a water-slide, wave pool and lazy river, a gym, walking track, and meeting rooms.
In charge of the PCU Centre is the Portage Regional Recreation Authority (PRRA) – a joint effort between the city and the Rural Municipalities of Portage la Prairie. Jennifer Sarna, executive director of the PRRA, said the facility is “helping to put Portage on the entertainment and hosting map. From major sporting events, like the Manitoba Moose game we put on in partnership with the Rotary Club, to the Manitoba Games, and concerts, everyone who has come to play here, whether it be hockey or entertainers, have said they have been impressed.”
The PCU Centre, which opened in phases beginning in February, was one of the host sites for the 2010 Power Smart Manitoba Winter Games.
“First and foremost, this is a community centre,” said Sarna of the new building. “But we are also flexible enough to accommodate major events as well.”
The small town of roughly 13,000 and surrounding area of 7,000 in the RM banded together to build the centre, which cost around $42 million. The RM contributed $8 million to the project, and the PCU Centre serves as a regional facility. One of the main tenants at the arena is Portage's Junior A club, the Terriers, though it is used by minor hockey, high school hockey, ringette, figure skating, learn to skate programs and the Central Plains regional midget AAA hockey programs.