Those who were living in Estevan 10 years ago won’t soon forget the opening of Affinity Place.
There was the first event in that magnificent venue – the final new arena fundraising dinner with several special guest speakers, including legendary hockey general manager Brian Burke.
A few weeks later, we had the opening concert with famed Canadian musicians Kim Mitchell and Tom Cochrane (with Red Rider).
A few months after that, the grand opening occurred, and the following night, the Estevan Bruins had their first-ever regular season game at Affinity against the Melville Millionaires.
All special moments, to be sure. And all elicited a common response from the public – the “Wow” factor – as people entered the venue and marvelled at what we now had in Estevan.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since Affinity Place (or Spectra Place, as it was known then) held those opening attractions. Since then, it’s hosted other events – marquee sporting competitions, big-time concerts, community events, fundraisers, trade shows and so much more.
While many of us have been in Affinity Place dozens or even hundreds of times, there is still that element of a “Wow” factor. It still looks great, and rates among the finest arenas for small cities in Canada.
One of the reasons we’ve had the luxury of such a wonderful facility was the success of the naming rights sales and fundraising campaign, which netted $8 million, including $1 million from the five new arena fundraising dinners.
A lot of people and businesses stepped forward with their support. The new arena fundraising committee found a way to sell a sponsorship for just about everything, from the venue itself, to the sections to the individual seats to the sound baffles.
Corporate boxes proved to be the big hit, which isn’t a surprise; businesses wanted that ability to watch the game or concert in privacy from their box, and bring clients, family and friends.
And other amenities inside the leisure centre were sold, too, from the second rink to the multipurpose room to the swimming pool.
The naming rights are available once again this year. It hasn’t been as successful as the first campaign, but at least they have sold the naming rights to Estevan’s two arenas, as well as the corporate boxes at Affinity Place, which are still the hottest ticket out there.
A few other things have been gobbled up.
We knew that this campaign wouldn’t generate the same amount of revenues as its predecessor. The term lengths are shorter at five years instead of 10. The previous campaign occurred in an oil boom. And the last campaign didn’t happen in the midst of a pandemic. (Although it was somewhat hampered by the Great Recession).
And the previous campaign supported something that was new and exciting, not something that is 10 years old.
Outside of a new score clock, which has already been suggested as the legacy project for the 2022 Centennial Cup national Junior A hockey championship, there isn’t much to improve at Affinity, at least not yet. It doesn’t need a big renovation, and likely won’t for some time.
But there is still a lot of worthwhile amenities available inside the events centre that would provide value for the buyer.
Hopefully some of these amenities will be sold.
In hindsight, it’s hard to believe there were critics of the facility during construction and when it opened 10 years ago. They said we didn’t need a new arena, that the Civic Auditorium and the Lignite Miners Centre (now known as the Power Dodge Arena) were enough and would be sufficient for years to come.
Others thought we were being too elaborate with our arena, that we should go with something much simpler, despite the amount raised through donations, and despite support from the provincial and federal governments
(It’s kind of like those who are now complaining about the pathway and sidewalk project underway in Estevan).
The people who questioned the need for Affinity Place were silenced pretty quickly.
Affinity Place has given us some pretty memorable moments over the past decade. We can look forward to many more, not only in the next 10 years, but in the decades afterwards.