$1M more needed for St. Stephen civic center

Posted Jan. 11, 2009, at 9:54 p.m.

ST. STEPHEN, New Brunswick — One million dollars may seem like a lot of money, but it is a short sprint for members of the Charlotte County Civic Center Project, who already have raised more than $2.5 million for a new sports and community complex.

Movers and shakers from both sides of the international border who spearheaded the project are excited because the end is in sight for a new civic center that will house a state-of-the-art hockey rink and Olympic-size swimming pool, among other features.

Some of the volunteers believe the last $1 million will be a slam dunk compared to garnering the millions raised to date. In the beginning there were doubters.

“When the committee announced that we had raised the first million and a half, I felt a sudden attitude change in people,” volunteer and organizer Maria Kulcher said in a release. “The cynics were hushed. Suddenly, the project became a foreseeable reality. We could really build this civic center. Then we reached the $2 million mark and I saw a growth in the community’s confidence and pride. The excitement grew. And now we have passed the $2.5 million milestone. The goal is within our grasp. Not only can we do it, we’re going to do it.”

Support has been growing because those who have donated see the civic center as an investment in the future.

“People, I think, really are starting to view this not just as a health facility and a sporting complex, but also as an economic tool,” David Mitchell, chairman of the U.S. fundraising group said last week. “It is going to bring some people to this area. We are going to be able to house a lot of teams in that facility for different contests. There will be meeting rooms for businesses to hold functions and things of that nature. So it is not only a sporting complex, but it is an economic development tool also.”

But volunteers aren’t sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in. They continue to aggressively pursue donations, both big and small.

Campaign coordinator Melissa Evans said last week that Calais residents have done their part. “We’ve raised $116,000 on the Calais side,” she said. “There is lots of support on the Calais side already and we are very aware of it. We also are very aware of it because of the number of hits on our Web site coming from the Calais area.”

Mitchell said the U.S. fundraising group is waiting for its tax-exempt status, which is almost complete.

“We did receive word from the federal agency that they have received the application and we had to make some amendments to it which have been made, and everything has been approved at this point. So really we are just waiting for a tax identification number,” Mitchell said. “We also have incorporated on this side so that contributions made on the U.S. side can be run through this corporation’s account and basically be turned over to the fundraising committee on the Canadian side where the facility is going to be built.”

The town of St. Stephen has agreed to kick an additional $2.1 million into the effort.

Once that goal is reached, organizers can appeal to the Canadian federal and provincial governments, which are expected to contribute an additional $4.7 million each. Once the Charlotte County Civic Center is built, the town of St. Stephen will own and operate it.

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