August 22, 2018 5:19 pm
Updated: August 22, 2018 7:15 pm

Red Deer College celebrates grand opening of $88M sports, education facility

WATCH ABOVE: A state-of-the-art facility has opened its doors in Red Deer. The health and wellness facility at Red Deer College is a huge boost for the region as it prepares to host a major athletic event early next year. Kim Smith reports.

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In a development many see as key to making the Alberta city a destination for major sports events, Red Deer College celebrated the opening of a brand new, state-of-the-art recreation and education facility on Wednesday.

After nearly three years of construction, the $88-million Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre is officially open.

The facility is home to a 1,748-square-metre performance gymnasium, an Olympic-sized ice arena, fitness centre, running track and squash courts. Students from all 17 RDC Athletics teams will practice, train and compete in the new 250,000-square-foot building.

READ MORE: Red Deer wins bid for 2019 Canada Winter Games

The centre also houses teaching and learning spaces, which will be used by students starting this fall.

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“We are so honoured and excited that this facility will be used by community members and athletes from across Canada,” RDC president and CEO Joel Ward said.

“But teaching and learning is always at the core of what we do and who we are as an educational institution. To that end, we designed this building to facilitate teaching opportunities across a wide range of programs, primarily in the fields of health sciences.”

READ MORE: Red Deer makes Expedia’s list of North America’s ‘Most Breathtaking Places’

Next spring, the Canada Games Centre will host the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Volleyball National Championship. The event features the top eight volleyball teams from across Canada.

But perhaps the biggest event to come to the facility will be the 2019 Canada Winter Games. From Feb. 15 to March 3, 2019, the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre will be the competition venue for five sports during the games.

“This building will have a tremendous impact on our region, and community members will benefit directly and indirectly from the facility, which further positions Red Deer College and Red Deer as a destination for a wide range of activities and opportunities,” RDC board chair Morris Flewwelling said. “We’re embarking on an exciting new future.”

READ MORE: Red Deer lights the way for Canada Winter Games

The Canada Games Centre will also serve an important role in the college’s journey to becoming a recognized university. In March, the Notley government announced Red Deer College was given approval to offer its own degrees and begin its quest to become a university.

“This building is a symbol of RDC’s future – for our students, faculty, staff, community members and partners,” Ward said. “Today, we take a huge step forward on this future path as we celebrate this grand opening and continue to transition to a recognized university.”

READ MORE: 2 Alberta colleges granted permission to become universities

Work at the site began in the fall of 2015 and was completed this summer. In total, more than 2,000 people worked on the project.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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