Building an outdoor rink in Penticton at no cost to the taxpayers seemed like a far-fetched idea to many less than 40 months ago.
The downtown fantasy would later become reality in February 2022, though, thanks to nearly $1 million in private donations and thousands of hours of work from a group of local volunteers.
It’s a project that was led by the efforts of Drew Barnes, who aimed on making the 40-by-14 metre skating rink at 107 Martin Street operational in temperatures of up to 10 C. He got it done, despite navigating through supply-chain issues and delays over the course of the pandemic.
“A lot of people thought it was Drew’s job when he was working on this, but it wasn’t, he was a volunteer and made sacrifices to make it happen,” said Gord Barnes, Drew’s father, who also serves as among the facility’s volunteers.
From Zamboni drivers to ice builders and maintenance people, the rink remains open seven days a week at no cost to anyone because of all the volunteers who work on behalf of those in the community.
Fifteen volunteers, for instance, are responsible for ensuring the ice is ready to be used by 8 a.m. every day. From crew chief Cam Gunning to Kent Fiske and Dave Burgoyne, everyone plays their own role in making the rink a reality seven days a week.
Frank Gair, Mark Hammerquist, Adam Konanz, Chris Terris, Lloyd Lindsay, John Buckley, Lance Zablotney, Cathy Terris, Patrick Meyer, Chris Arak and Ralph Consolo make up the rest of the maintenance group.
“For us, it’s quite enjoyable because we’re all Canadian and we all love hockey…it’s almost sort of on a wishlist for a lot of us to drive a Zamboni,” Barnes said with a laugh.
Some used to work in hockey rinks themselves, and others served as community leaders for several years.
What they all have in common, though, is a love for Penticton.
“This crew is just a small example of the types of things this community is made up of,” said Barnes. “All of them just want to do something that makes our community better to live in.”
The downtown rink has been home to many firsts since its opening, from the first steps on the ice for children to the opening memories for young families across the city.
Barnes even said he recently saw a couple on the ice who had just come to the country. Their experience at Penticton’s outdoor rink was their first time doing something so many Canadians have enjoyed for more than 100 years.
City-wide memories at the rink reached an all-time high in late January when the B.C. Hockey League brought its 60th-anniversary all-star game to the facility.
“I was just so proud to see that,” Barnes said. “I was proud of our town, proud of my son, it was really heartwarming to see that take place.”
Prior to the rink’s construction, a total of 20 community groups and individuals made sizable donations to Activate Penticton, the non-profit group responsible for building the rink.
Along with the aforementioned BCHL event, the facility has hosted charity dodgeball games and community skates featuring members from the Penticton Minor Hockey Association.
“None of the volunteers who make this happen want hero badges,” Barnes said. “They just want to see people in the community enjoy themselves.”