In a dust-dry region desperately in need of a solid soaking, nobody minded the refreshing showers that forced the celebratory sod-turning for the new Martensville Community Recreation Centre indoors on Wednesday, May 24.

“It’s not great for digging in the dirt, but it’s sure a welcome relief,” said Martensville City Councillor Darren McDonald, master of ceremonies for the occasion. “We’re happy to get the rain; and we’re happy to begin construction on this great project.”

The sod-turning event was originally slated to take place at the construction site on the west side of Highway 12 where the $44.5 million multi-purpose recreation facility is taking shape. But intermittent showers obliged organizers to move the show to the North Ridge Centennial Community Centre.

“Today we’re celebrating the initial stages of construction,” said Saskatchewan Government Relations Minister Don McMorris, whose government is contributing $14.8 million to the project. “It’s been 12 years in the making, thanks to the efforts of the City of Martensville and the Martensville Community Recreation project team.”

McMorris said the facility is “more than concrete and wood,” adding the true value of the building lies in the activities that take place there.

Celebrating the start of construction (left to right) Mary Lee, One Arrow First Nation Director of Operations Vickie Matchap-Sutherland, MCRP member Bartt Timms, Canwest Developments CEO John Williams, Martensville Mayor Kent Muench, Government Relations Minister Don McMorris, Martensville City Councillor Darren McDonald, MCRP Chair Jesse Reis, Martensville-Warman MLA Terry Jenson, MCRP member Ahlana Ehalt

“The completed facility will provide greater opportunities for sports, culture and other gatherings,” said McMorris. “The kind of events that provide economic activity and bring people together, build fond memories and ultimately strengthen the heart of a community.”

The federal government kicked in $17.8 million to the project. A letter from federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Dominic LeBlanc noted that modern recreational infrastructure “is essential to keeping our communities vibrant.”

Martensville Mayor Kent Muench said the long-term legacy of the project is that people took up the challenge of fundraising and working together for a common goal. He added that financial contributions from regional partners, corporate and individual donors helped make it a reality.

Canwest Developments President and CEO John Williams said his company was honoured to donate the land for the project.

“This type of facility is long overdue for this region,” said Williams. “It ties the community together in so many ways.”

Construction by Wright Construction on the facility began January 19 and by the end of this calendar year, it is expected the skeleton of the building will be complete and enclosed. The facility should be commissioned by the summer of 2024 and in operation in the fall of 2024. It is expected to employ 300 workers during the construction phase.

The facility includes: one regulation size ice surface with spectator seating, leisure ice surface, full size indoor artificial turf facility, spectator lounge area;,indoor rock-climbing wall, indoor playground, multipurpose rooms;,change rooms, washrooms and concession area.

Martensville Community Recreation Project (MCRP) member Ahlana Ehalt said the community has a fundraising goal of $4 million in its ‘Lace ‘Em Up’ campaign.

“I’m happy to announce that so far, a total of $3.5 million has been raised,” she said.

MCRP member Bartt Timms urged community members to chip in to help the committee reach the $4 million target.

“We’re so close to our goal,” he said. “If you contribute $17 a month for five years, you can have your name on the donor wall in the facility for life. Let’s finish the dream we built together.”

MCRP Chair Jesse Reis said seeing the structure going up was “amazing” because it represents eight years of hard work by volunteers; and also stands as a tribute to how the community has pulled together.

Reis said the facility will be a boon not just to Martensville, but to the entire region.