ANTIGONISH: The federal government is kicking in funding for a local sporting facility.

On July 31, the Government of Canada announced $500,000 in funding for upgrades for StFX University’s Oland Stadium. The money will go toward replacing the stadium’s outdoor bleachers and a few other items such as lighting. Not just a boost for the university, the upgrades will help the school and surrounding area in hosting the 2018 Canadian Special Olympics.

Central Nova MP Sean Fraser made the announcement on behalf of the Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), with the funding coming from ACOA’s Innovative Communities Fund (ICF).

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“The reason it’s particularly notable, in addition to being a sizeable announcement in Antigonish, is the fact it’s connected to the Special Olympics,” he said. “This investment in the bleachers, combined with the provincial investment in the same project, is going to allow an event of this size to go forward.”

Fraser said Corner Brook, Nfld, hosted the previous national Special Olympics and the economic impact on the community was $5.4 million.

“To have an event of that size coming to the Town of Antigonish is going to be remarkable for the community,” Fraser said. “It’s the second time it’s ever been hosted in Nova Scotia and the first time that it’s ever been hosted outside of a major Canadian city. This is going to be a massive economic impact.”

Fraser said the announcement is an example of the federal government building infrastructure to contribute to the long-term economic growth of communities. He said the bleachers will have an impact far beyond next year’s event, noting the infrastructure will continue to provide returns by allowing StFX to host other large scale events, noting there is already talk of hosting U Sports events in the future.

“The support of our federal government has been a key component in our process of upgrading and improving the Oland Stadium facility,” stated Dr. Kent MacDonald, president and vice-chancellor of StFX. “This centre is the health and wellness heart of northern Nova Scotia. Students, athletes, and families from around the region engage in physical activity, sport and attend community events at the Oland Stadium.”

The provincial government announced $1 million in funding for the project in March.