Matt Burwell: President of The Igloo Recreation Center

Fun Fact. I (Anthony Crosby) am Canadian-American. My mother was born in the States, and my dad was born in Canada. Even though he retired from the US Marine Crops, after twenty years, legally, my father is recognized as a citizen of Canada. I share all of that to say because it’s in my blood, it was nice to talk to another Canadian for this feature, especially, about things like ice hockey!

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Matt Burwell acts as the president of The Igloo Recreation Center, a place I had yet to visit in my time in Elko, before this interview. It’s a giant facility full of families and things for them to do. Matt’s the engine behind all that goes on there, so let’s hear a little bit about him to start things off. “I grew up in Canada, and I moved here (Elko) in 1996 for a mining specific job. When I got here, I thought I was giving up snowmobiling and hockey, but it turns out we have plenty of snowmobiling here, and I found some other people who were trying to get a hockey league going. We started the Elko hokey league in 1997. In 2004 we were able to get the Igloo, which was originally a refrigerated storage building. It was in no way near in any condition for us to use, but it was pretty much the only vacant building in town that could accommodate how we wanted to use it. We got it for a really good price due to the local economy, at that time, not being too great. Everything in here was put together from donated materials and labor. It took much work. About three or four years ago, they (The Igloo Board of Directors) were looking for someone to take over as president and the job sort of fell on my shoulders and here I’ve been pretty much ever since.”

That’s great, Matt! However, what exactly is The Igloo and its purpose? What do you do? What’s your vision for the center? “Well, essentially, baseball, gymnastics, hockey, roller derby etc. none of those groups have the financial resources to have a building like The Igloo on their own. So, everyone has to come together so we can have something nice. Alone, we have nothing; together, we have something. That’s the premise. So, we have volunteers from every single one of those groups come in to help keep the place together, cleaned and maintained. It’s always a work in progress; we’re constantly trying to do things. For example, right now, we want to do some pretty major transformations. Instead of just picking away at some of the little things that need to be done, we are going to focus on a push to do a revitalization of the entire thing. The plan is to build an entire outdoor, refrigerated ice rink right next to The Igloo. This will also include a humongous upgrade to the parking lot, which means a lot of money will need to be raised.”

“In the meantime, we want to paint a mural right on the side of the building, finish the street (which currently sits unpaved), do some landscaping. We want to do these changes, so it doesn’t look like “the sketchy part of town” because things haven’t been finished. We just got a street light outside last year. Everyone else may take something like that for granted, but to us, it was like we’ve made it! It’s exciting, and we’re pursuing a lot of different avenues to try and make this happen. When we receive enough money to do step one, we’ll do step one so people can see the progress. We have the census numbers to vastly beyond what we want to do. My ultimate dream is to build another building on the land we own just across from The Igloo. It would be a full, indoor soccer field and full indoor ice rink. Right now, so many sports are coming to us in the Winter months with nowhere else to go, and we have to say no because we don’t have any building time left to give. We have to fix that.”

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Matt and I continued to talk about his fantastic, well thought out plans for the future of local recreation, a conversation which included some pretty fun ideas with a Zamboni! However, I’ll let those ideas be a surprise; keep your eyes open in future parades around town! Matt, you’re very involved with everything going on at The Igloo. That’s great. What are your thoughts and feelings overall towards the Elko area as a whole? “I cannot foresee a circumstance wherein any shape or form, will I ever move. This is where I live; this is home. It has everything I want, and the few things its missing, we’re going to fix! We do not lack very much in this town. We’re very blessed; we have a lot more things than some people want to give it credit for. The more I get involved in stuff like this (The Igloo) the more Elko gets its fish hooks in me. The more you get involved, the more invested you become. I have many people who this or that about The Igloo’s location and the way it looks, but at the end of the day, there are four hundred kids a week who come through this building. It’s about them, so come and help! Come down with a rake or a shovel; I’m forever looking for volunteers. I put in, minimum, ten hours a week doing things here, mopping floors, painting etc. Volunteers run everything here. We do not have any paid staff, including myself; it’s what keeps the costs for the families way down. Everyone, all the different people from the various activities, just come together for the common good.”

People, working together to build something beautiful, that’s what a community is all about. Matt, you have a lot of grand ideas for what you’d like to see in our city. Do you think we will ever see these goals come to fruition? “Absolutely yes! It’s going to happen; it’s only a matter of when. As long as I’m breathing and kicking, we’re making progress. We want this facility to be something everyone can be proud of, and we’re not going to stop until that happens.”

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See you around, Elko!

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