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'Just people getting together': Pleasant Hill community rink closer to reality

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A community rink is one step closer to reality in the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood, an area that has been void of a rink for decades.

The project got off to a slow start, according to David Fineday with the community association, because of the pandemic but now it’s full steam ahead to create a gathering place for residents.

Fineday has lived in various core neighbourhoods in Saskatoon for 50 years. He’s coached hockey and helped build a rink at Princess Alexandra School years ago, so he knows the importance of having meaningful activities available, especially for kids.

“What we’re missing is a thing called spirituality and that’s the circle, and that’s what we need to bring back. A hockey rink isn’t a circle, but it’s close and that will help bring it back,” Fineday told CTV News.

Pleasant Hill is only one of only a few neighbourhoods that doesn't have an outdoor rink. The closest rink for people in the area is blocks away with some options in Riversdale, King George or Westmount.

Joel Bernbaum is with Sum Theatre, which operates out of Pleasant Hill Park in the summer. He got on board two years ago because he said he saw a desire from many in the area to create a permanent gathering place.

Those include the community association, Chokecherry Studios, St. Paul’s Hospital, The Central Urban Metis Federation and many more, according to Bernbaum.

“It’s our favourite park to come to because it’s always the park that’s full when we arrive. Pleasant Hill is a vibrant community, and people use the spaces in this community,” he says.

Those involved hope this project represents more than simply just a rink and brings people together, something Fineday says, is missing.

“If I have a problem, maybe you can help me. If you have a problem, I could help you. That’s what can happen in this park, just people getting together,” he said.

Input was gathered from adults and kids in the community through interviews and public informational sessions. The goal was to get ideas for the rink, and those submitting suggestions were encouraged to dream big.

“That idea grew and that idea came from over there, and it was really something to hear those little kids talk,” Fineday recalls.

Some of those creative suggestions included having a place to sell hot chocolate and to also have a rink around the main rink so some people can still skate while a hockey game is going on in the centre.

City council approved the rink as a municipal project Wednesday, which means they can garner more donations. The budget for the capital project increased by $100,000 to be funded by private donations.

The initial cost estimate is around $50,000, but the hope is to incorporate Indigenous symbols and a warm-up shelter with evening and weekend programs that will likely mean a much higher price tag.

The group is looking for a donation-in-kind to help pay for the plumbing needed to get water to the rink, which is expected to be costly. They hope other businesses or organizations recognize the importance of the project and come forward to help.

Organizers also said that a rink takes a lot of volunteers and manpower through the winter to keep it running properly so they are also counting on community members to step up and get involved, and welcome anyone to contact the community association to pitch in.

The rink is expected to be completed next winter.  

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