The Pason Centennial Arena expansion opens on-time and on-budget today.

The $15 million expansion features an NHL-sized ice rink with seating for 300, a leisure skating rink with a large projector screen and fireplace as well as three multi-purpose rooms that will eventually be available for rent, for anything from birthday parties to meetings.

Town of Okotoks Recreation Facilities Manager Doug Robson says they wanted to build a leisure rink that would stand out from the rest.

"We wanted it to stand out for several reasons, so we thought, 'What could we do differently'?" he says. "So, we decided to put in a large mantel fireplace and we put seating in front of the fireplace. Actually, the seat of the fireplace has electric heat in it so that you stay fairly warm while you're sitting on it. Just above it, we put a very large projector so we can watch The Lion King or we can watch the Olympics."

The leisure ice surface is oblong in shape and can host about 75 skaters during the free public skating that will be offered there.

The older ice surface will now be known as Pason Green, while the new area will be called Pason Gold. The new NHL-sized ice surface features glass viewing portions along the bottoms of the player benches and penalty boxes, to provide a clear view of the action for sledge hockey teams. The benches in the two players' areas can be removed and replaced with puck board to allow for ease of movement for sledges.

Plans are also in the works for a mini-stick rink, so kids not on the ice can have a place to play. Robson says they are looking into quotes for the cost of that feature, which would be built complete with boards and glass about seven or eight feet tall, and they're also searching for a sponsor.

Construction on the expansion began in October of 2016 and Robson explains that the facility came together in pieces.

"It was a design build, so a design build is a prefab build," he says. "They came out with what they call a Butler structure, so it actually kind of goes up like a Lego set. You'll see the big beams go up and then sections go up at a time and then you build into it. So, a lot of it is built off-site and then brought on-site."

In addition to energy efficient features, he points out that the expansion's roof and mechanical room was built with solar power in mind, sometime in the future.

"We designed the roof of this building flat, versus the other one which is arched," he points out. "The reason we did that is we can now put 350 kilowatts of solar power on this roof. And the reason this room is so big and empty, is we need to convert the DC power that the solar makes to AC power. These walls will all be covered with inverters when we put the solar power up."

All areas of the arena will be open later today, with the exception of the multi-purpose rooms, which will not yet be available for rent. The Pason Centennial Arena expansion opens at 4 p.m. on Wednesday January 31.


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