ST. JOSEPH: As the sun was shining high in the sky, making for lovely last day of spring, the chair of the board of directors with the St. Joseph’s Lakeside Community Centre was dreaming about outdoor rinks.

“This rink has been a topic of conversation in the past, which never came to light,” Wendy Hayne told The Reporter. “I’ve been with the board for eight years and it’s been brought up a few times since I’ve been there.”

Last week during the Municipality of the County of Antigonish’s regular monthly council meeting, councillors passed a motion to support the community centre’s outdoor rink with a contribution of $50,000.

“We applied for a grant through the municipality and then they kind of topped it up,” Hayne said. “With COVID, it seemed like there were a lot more opportunities for grants that were applicable for getting people involved in social interaction along with physical activity.”

In a world where COVID has taken away so much and has proven the importance of being able to get outside close to home, she said that sparked conversations where the community project came back to life.

“Having said that it is contingent for sure on the grant money as we’re a non-profit organization, we’re struggling as it is,” Hayne said. “We have put in for several grants; we’ve only heard back from the county thus far. If we can get the funding through federal and provincial money then we will move forward with it.”

She explained the community centre has had to close its doors twice in the wake of the global pandemic, and just last week they were able to re-open their fitness centre.

“It’s kind of blown us away, we really did not anticipate the number of members, now we’re talking a small gym in small area,” Hayne said. “But we have over 60 memberships right now, so we’re pretty impressed.”

She explains there will be the same high interest in an outdoor rink, once they have raised the capital to do so.

“My neighbour messaged me the other night after hearing me on the radio and he goes ‘Wendy, can I put my outdoor rink away?’ I found a lot of people were installing their own backyard rinks, just so the kids could play and get some fresh air,” Hayne said. “I told him, ‘fingers crossed, you can put it away for good.’”

The community’s goal is to build a space where they can create a social atmosphere that will bring people from both the local and surrounding communities together.

With an estimated price tag of $150,000-$200,000, she highlighted their dream would be to build an outdoor rink that will be used in the winter, which they hope to turn into a pickleball court during the summer and fall months, along with a clubhouse that would have heated change rooms, electricity, and two washrooms.

“I’ll reiterate, with COVID, a lot of people have been house bound, it would just be good,” Hayne said. “It would be an all-around, great, community asset.”