Estevan residents are used to hearing stories about the generosity of the people and the businesses in the community when it comes to supporting something that is for the benefit of all.
But that level of support was taken to a new level on March 12 during Estevan's new arena fundraiser.
Perhaps people were in a good mood because hockey icon Steve Yzerman, also known as “Stevie Y,” was the keynote speaker. Yzerman’s banquet appearances are rare, so it said something about Estevan and the need for a new arena when Yzerman showed up.
And after he helped assemble Canada's gold medal winning men's hockey entry for the 2010 Winter Olympics, it would have been easy for Yzerman to politely decline Estevan's invitation, and instead spend time with his family, or concentrate on his management job with the Detroit Red Wings.
But he came. And so did Red Wings GM Ken Holland, TSN broadcaster Gord Miller, and Saskatchewan Roughriders Chris Getzlaf and Stu Foord.
The live auction alone raised more than $250,000. People in attendance knew that it would be a great auction when the first item, a pump jack, sold for $80,000. The final net profit for the evening will likely be over $300,000.
To put it in perspective, the first new arena fundraiser in 2007 brought in more than $200,000 for the project. About $130,000 came from the live auction. People raved about that event for months.
Construction is underway on the new arena. It would be easy for people to take an apathetic approach to financially supporting the project, since it will be finished by the end of this year regardless of support.
Also, many of the businesses who purchased corporate tables or bought items in the auction have supported the fundraiser every year, or they have made a contribution to the arena through naming rights sales.
Individuals and the businesses continue to support the new arena. For every dollar that’s donated through naming rights sales, or through the new arena fundraiser, that’s one less dollar that will be needed from the taxpayers of Estevan. (Worth noting is that Estevan taxpayers will probably be on the hook for $1 million or $2 million of the final cost. Fundraising, donations and government grants will cover most of the $22 million cost).
If it is true that next year’s new arena fundraiser will be the last one, and it will be held in the new arena, one has to wonder how organizers will be able to top this year's event, not just in terms of the amount of money that was raised, but in terms of the star power. It simply doesn't get much bigger or better in hockey than “Stevie Y.”