AMHERST – The 2019 Fred Page Cup may be just over nine months away, but work has already started to prepare the Amherst Stadium for the hockey tournament that will feature the top junior A team in eastern Canada.
“Contractors have begun moving into the stadium to prepare it for the winter season and there’s a lot of work to be done before we put ice in for the start of the Ramblers training camp later this month,” Amherst’s recreation director Bill Schurman said. “We have a very short window to get all the necessary upgrades completed.”
During the town’s 2018-19 budget, released in the spring, the town committed $247,000 on various improvements to the stadium including $30,000 to recondition the ice plant, $22,000 for Wi-Fi upgrades and $90,000 for a new sound system.
Other improvements include $25,000 for new boards for the ice surface, $55,000 for new dehumidifiers and $25,000 to complete painting that was started last summer.
“These are improvements that are needed for the arena. Some of the work, like the compressors, won’t be seen by the public but they are essential for when we turn the plant on,” Schurman said. “The two new dehumidifiers will go a long way to improving the air quality in the stadium in the fall and the spring.”
He said work has begun to prepare for the dehumidifiers, but they won’t be installed until Aug. 22. They will replace a pair of dehumidifiers that are at least 20 years old and are older technology. The replacements will be much more energy efficient.
Painting will include the dressing rooms, walkways and hallways redone before the arena reopens. There is also some touch-up work to be done on some of the areas that were painted last year.
“Hopefully everything will look fresh and clean and ready for that late August opening,” Schurman said.
The sound and Wi-Fi contractors have been onsite, and fans will notice a huge improvement in sound quality. Wi-Fi has also been a longtime issue and the previous system did not have the capacity for larger events.
“With this contractor, we’ve been assured if a thousand people log on at any one time it shouldn’t be an issue. That will be a big improvement,” he said.
The new rink boards will be improved in that sponsorship signage will be easier to apply with decals as opposed to signs with plastic overtop.
“The Fred Page Cup was a great catalyst to identify the upgrades needed to the stadium, but most of the upgrades will be enjoyed by clients and customers long after the Fred Page Cup,” Schurman said.
While the work has been ongoing, the stadium has been closed to walkers because of the potential for fumes and the presence of equipment working inside the rink. Schurman said people who normally use the walking track during the summer have been understanding.
“We know it’s an inconvenience for a percentage of our population who uses the stadium, but there’s no other way around it,” he said. “There’s contractors working in the stadium and it’s a safety issue.
“Having said that, we have great walking tracks at Dickey Park and the Rotary Park and all our trails are accessible. If you wish to walk there are many opportunities to walk.”
Schurman said preparations are ongoing for the Fred Page Cup that will be held next May and will feature the host Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers and the best junior A hockey teams in eastern Canada.
“The executive of the organizing committee has been meeting for the last six months, developing its plans and following the CJAHL bid criteria,” he said. “We have a number of sub-committees that have begun working as well and we’re looking at the home opener as being the kickoff to the Fred Page Cup.”
Schurman said the Family First New Year’s Eve celebration on Dec. 31 will mark the official countdown to the Cup while, as host committee chairman, he is hoping to involve Amherst area schools in the festivities by adopting a team and following that team through the playoffs.
He said more than 50 people have signed up already to be volunteers for the Fred Page Cup and there will be opportunities during the season to register to help out.
UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall will be the guest speaker at the banquet and the tournament will also see the honouring of builders from each of the MHL’s team in honour of Fred Page, who was a builder and referee himself.
Members of the executive committee include former president Jim Henwood, who is looking after marketing and promotion; Hal Davidson, who is looking after scouts; Rambler president Gary Brown, who is looking after game operations; Sheila Christie, who is looking after volunteers; Rambler executive member Kim Campbell, who is looking after accommodations; CAO Greg Herrett is overseeing tournament finances and Natasha Galloway is serving as secretary and looking after credentials.