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Hometown Hockey festival will transform Nanaimo park

City of Nanaimo Coun. Bill Bestwick, left, and director of parks, recreation and environment Richard Harding are looking forward to Rogers Hometown Hockey being broadcast from Nanaimo on Feb. 26. They were at a press conference Wednesday at the site where an outdoor ice rink will be set up at Maffeo Sutton Park. - GREG SAKAKI / The News Bulletin
City of Nanaimo Coun. Bill Bestwick, left, and director of parks, recreation and environment Richard Harding are looking forward to Rogers Hometown Hockey being broadcast from Nanaimo on Feb. 26. They were at a press conference Wednesday at the site where an outdoor ice rink will be set up at Maffeo Sutton Park.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI / The News Bulletin

Winter is nearly here and that means that Hometown Hockey isn’t far off.

The City of Nanaimo held a press conference Wednesday at Maffeo Sutton Park to provide an update on plans for Rogers Hometown Hockey’s visit at the end of February.

The TV program, hosted by Ron MacLean and Tara Slone, will be broadcasted live from the park on Feb. 26.

“It might be one of the most enduring events for an entire community to embrace, that is cross-country and it’s Canadiana,” said Coun. Bill Bestwick, chairman of the city’s Hometown Hockey organizing committee. “To have this opportunity in February is a wonderful event for this city.”

An outdoor ice rink will open Feb. 18 in a corner of Maffeo Sutton Park’s Spirit Square, in front of the Lions Pavilion. Various ice hockey and ball hockey games around the city will be linked with Hometown Hockey and the event will culminate with a two-day festival at the park Feb. 25-26. At the end of the broadcast, there will be a waterfront fireworks display. The city has budgeted $123,000 to host the event, plus $200,000 to set up the outdoor rink for nine days.

Richard Harding, the city’s parks and recreation director, said Maffeo Sutton Park will be transformed for the events.

Rogers Hometown Hockey is bringing in a number of performances, different [activities] for people to do, as well as we’re going to add a couple of things ourselves…” Harding said. “This is going to be a fun event for the whole region, really, for those who want to come down. There’ll be a number of activities for those who love hockey, for those who just like hockey; there’s going to be a number of community events for everybody to enjoy.”

According to the city, there are 452 rooms booked at the Coast Bastion Hotel in the week leading up to and including the weekend of Hometown Hockey, and Bestwick said there are other tourism benefits.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to let the balance of the country know how beautiful it is here, what our history is all about. This event, to me, is about our history, this is about our legacy, this is about our culture and this is about our attitude.”

The live Sportsnet broadcast will be from 4-4:30 p.m. on Feb. 26. The outdoor rink will be open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. from Feb. 18-26 and there will be times set aside for public skating, pro-D day programming and private rentals.

The rink’s price tag includes a $55,000 ice mat that the municipality will keep for future re-use. While Hometown Hockey is a one-time thing, Bestwick envisions that outdoor skating will continue and expand.

“I hope that the legacy pieces will make this a winter wonderland event for many, many more decades to come,” he said.

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