The fundraisers behind the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre campaign hope a donation from noted philanthropists Roger and Edith Davis will spur other donors to support the expansion of the centre and Sports Hall of Recognition.
The Brant couple's $50,000 gift was announced to a crowd of prospective donors at the Gretzky centre on Wednesday night, along with a $30,000 donation from the Tournament Capital of Ontario board.
Those donations bring the total amount collected to date to $200,000.
Fundraiser Marilyn Campbell Davis of KCI is confident that having established donors like the Davis Foundation support the project will inspire others to do the same.
“We have a lot in the pipeline,” said Campbell Davis, referring to almost $3 million in potential donations.
A typical public fundraising campaign wouldn't launch until more money was in hand, Campbell Davis said, but KCI hopes letting would-be donors tour the facility and see progress made will help counteract what she called “negative press” the project has received because of cost overruns.
“I think this event is going to help people see that (the centre) is worth investing in,” she said, noting that there has been “huge interest” in the Sports Hall of Recognition, which will honour Brantford sporting greats such as Wayne Gretzky.
In a rousing speech, Mayor Chris Friel did his part to sway donors to support what will be a social and sporting hub for the community.
“I defy anybody who is here tonight to not feel the excitement – not to feel a sense of awe at what we've done as a community,” Friel said.
The fundraising campaign is not about paying down debt, he said.
“What we're doing is adding, improving and giving something more," Friel said. “Let's get excited about inspiring greatness at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre.”
The campaign's goal is between $5 and $6 million, which will fund improvements such as a new 25-metre swimming pool, therapeutic pool, dry-land training area, exercise areas, basketball court, office space and pro shop.
The city's parks and recreation manager Sandy Jackson has her fingers crossed that the new pool will open by spring, with all renovations set to finish by October.