Recreation crusader aims for funding

Thomas Levi hopes to win $250,000 Kraft prize to renovate arena, basketball court

Casey Lessard | IKPIARJUK/ARCTIC BAY
June 15, 2015
Arctic Bay recreation director Thomas Levi, seen here flooding the community arena ice manually, is committed to sport in the community. He has worked in recreation since the arena was built in 1995, and is hoping a contest will choose his pitch for a renovation grant that would include a better flooding system. - photo courtesy of Thomas Levi

Arctic Bay recreation director Thomas Levi, seen here flooding the community arena ice manually, is committed to sport in the community. He has worked in recreation since the arena was built in 1995, and is hoping a contest will choose his pitch for a renovation grant that would include a better flooding system. – photo courtesy of Thomas Levi

Thomas Levi has been with the Arctic Bay recreation department since 1995, the year the community arena was built.

But the facility hasn’t seen a major renovation since then, and this year, his goal is to renovate the Tununirusiq Arena and create an outdoor basketball court.

“When (the arena) closes in June, it stays closed until November because the rink is sand, not cemented,” Levi said, explaining that cementing the rink will mean it can be used year-round for basketball and soccer.

“I’d rather have it used spring and summer.”

To do so, he’s making a pitch to win Kraft Project Play’s $250,000 grand prize to make recreation facility upgrades. Three runners-up get $25,000.

“Especially this last season, it’s been not too good,” he said of the facility.

“We really need some renovations. Get some new fencing and other stuff like that.”

Levi has unsuccessfully applied in the past for funding for minor repairs, for a scoreboard, and a new ice-flooding machine.

“We usually use a flooder, which (can carry) 45 gallons,” he said.

“We just drag it around the ice. It’s all banged up, kind of old.”

Levi and others haul the flooder around the ice as a manually-operated version of a Zamboni. His commitment to sport is apparent in his consistent appearances as a competitor and coach at the Arctic Winter Games.

“It’s pretty hard (work),” he said, “but it’s worth it in the end.”

In addition to public skating six days a week, hockey is growing as an activity in the community, where about 75 residents play the sport.

“Last year, Project North came in and donated a bunch of hockey equipment for kids 12 and under, and we tripled the hockey players since last year,” he said.

“The ice is being well-used, and if we get a Zamboni or good flooder, we can keep it maintained, keep the kids busy.”

The Arctic Bay project is the only entry from Nunavut (as of press deadline).

Kraft Project Play is focusing on soccer, basketball and tennis this year. The community’s basketball court is a dirt area with a net attached to the water tank outside a hamlet building. A cement pad would help make that sport more playable in the community, he said.

“It’s connected to my job, of course, but I’d rather have a good building than an old one,” he said.

“Twenty years is kind of long.”

Nominations for the contest closed June 14.

The contest will announce four finalists July 26, and voting will take place Aug. 17 and 18.