St. Andrew’s College celebrated a historic milestone during Saturday’s Homecoming with the opening of its own on-campus arena.
More than 1,000 Andreans were on hand as Michael and Wendy La Brier stood at centre ice and cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the La Brier Family Arena. Holding the ribbon were Saints Varsity Hockey co-captains Adam Sinclair ’15 and Griffin James ’15.
Two years ago, the La Brier family stepped forward with a $5-million gift earmarked for an arena. The building was added to the campaign, plans were fast-tracked, and 18 months later SAC’s dream of having its own arena had been fulfilled.
Michael and Wendy, parents of current students Jacob ’15 and Lucas ’18, daughter Taylor and sons Ben and Sam, spoke with passion about what the School means to them and how, as a family, they wanted to do something to add to its legacy.
“An on-site rink, a missing piece of infrastructure at SAC, is something that we thought would accomplish this,” said Michael.
Chairman of the Board, Michael Sifton ’79, remarked that there isn’t a building on campus, including the property itself, that would be here if it weren’t for the extraordinary generosity of Andreans over the generations. “Now the La Briers have joined that legacy,” he said.
Mr. Sifton also thanked those responsible for making it happen including the generous supporters, builders, and donors: Aurora Mayor Geoff Dawe; project managers Ryan Veenstra and Andrew Ternan from Bolt Developments; architects at Graziani & Corazza; SAC’s project manager Jason Judson from Turner & Townsend; and members of SAC’s Board of Governors, staff, and faculty.
“We had no plans to build this arena right now, we were trying to get other things built,” said Michael Sifton. “But Mike came along with an idea, vision, guts, and the willingness to help us make it all happen. So we went into hurry-up offence and here we are.”
The 50,000-sq. ft. multi-use facility cost just under $13-million to build. It includes an NHL-sized ice surface, seating for 500 spectators, five change rooms, and a concession stand. It also houses the second-floor Yuill Andrean Room and catering kitchen as well as a 6,000-sq.-ft. weight room and training space, a platform for indoor dryland training, and an athletic therapy treatment centre.
The Homecoming crowd took time to tour the facility between events on Saturday, and all seemed impressed with what they saw. People marveled at the Varsity dressing room, which rivals those found in the NHL thanks to a $250,000 gift from the 84-member SAC Hockey Booster Club; the state-of-the art weight room; and the Yuill Andrean Room that allows a vantage to both the ice and the Yuill Family Athletic Complex. The spectacular artwork and murals that line the walls and lobby pay tribute to the School’s sporting history – not just hockey – leaving no doubt that this facility belongs to St. Andrew’s.
Tino Paolini, the former Head of Art who retired in June after 34 years with the School, painted four large oil portraits of SAC athletes past and present. Three of the paintings are displayed in the Iwai Family Lobby, and the fourth is on the second floor above the staircase to the Lawrence Family Lobby and the Yuill Andrean Room.
Stephen Kimmerer, visual arts and graphic design teacher, and the new Head of Art, spent the summer creating 27 wall murals that surround the walls above the ice surface. He photoshopped historic and modern photos to create the stunning images. The murals along the Beswick Family Training Platform are able to roll up to accommodate future bleacher seating for 400 more fans.
“I am so humbled and proud,” said Headmaster Kevin McHenry, of the journey to bring an arena to SAC. He gave a special thank-you to the School’s Board of Governors for their commitment to support and continue to move the project forward, even when it exceeded its original price tag.
“It’s been a labour of love for all involved,” says Headmaster McHenry. “The result is a building that is truly amazing.”
When not in use by St. Andrew’s, the ice surface will be rented to other user groups. The York Simcoe Express AAA hockey league has signed a contract making the La Brier Family Arena their home ice for their nine teams’ games and practices.
Story by Cindy Veitch, St. Andrew's College