Ruth and Gary Harris invested $5 million dollars in the new Health,Wellness & Sport Centre at Red Deer College.

A former Red Deer College King volleyball and basketball player made a slam dunk as his family reached down deep in support of a major project at the college.

Gary and Ruth Harris are behind a five million dollar donation to the Health, Wellness and Sport Centre at RDC .

“It’s exciting and I’m really looking forward to this facility being built,” said Gary Harris, whose name will decorate the side of the $88 million dollar facility on the westside of the college grounds.

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Harris and his family are Red Deerians and he says this donation is a way and means to give back to a community which helped him grow.

“I mean you live in a community most of your life and you want to leave something behind to be remembered so the legacy is to be remembered. My sons and grandsons live here.”

He was a student and played sports at RDC more than 40 years ago and he’s well aware of what the current crop of student athletes have to deal with during a season.

“Some of those facilities need to be upgraded and to have facilities that would attract national events,” he said.” Maybe even our national hockey team as Red Deer will have an Olympic size hockey rink.”

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He said the health and wellness aspect of the centre is something the general public is focused on right now and he believes the facility will be a leading point in the effort to attract people to Red Deer.

“Red Deer was only 20,000 people when I came here and we didn’t have nearly the facilities or the attraction for people.”

He views his donation as coming from someone who was an athlete and an educated person who feels strongly about combining education and sports.

When he took the stage to address the crowd in the Red Deer College Arts Centre he got a bit choked up but he was quick to lighten the mood.

“I get nervous and emotional sometimes when I have to make presentation in front of a large group.This one is different when there is also maybe another reason to be a little emotional and that’s the gift of five million dollars.”

Joel Ward, president of Red Deer College says this donation is one of the largest for any college and it sets the tone for the work which lies ahead.

He was made aware of the potential donation, met with Gary Harris and over a lengthy lunch a deal was hatched.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my 23 years in this business and it’s just extraordinary what he is doing and what he has done for this great college,” said Ward.

It was a decision Harris said he had thought about for quite some time and it was kept under wraps for more than a year until the announcement was made public.

“In my first career I was a lawyer so I was use to keeping secrets and protecting people’s information,” he said. “It wasn’t that hard really but it did get harder near the end I must admit. You get more excited when you get close to the announcement.”

The good news for RDC and the new centre didn’t end with the Harris’ generosity.

Hockey Alberta offered up $1.5 million dollars towards the building which will in the future become the new provincial training centre and the head office for the association.

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Red Deer College officials have always stated their facility reaches far and wide so it was no surprise even more financial support came forward with $1 million dollars from Lacombe County and $500,000 from Red Deer County.

Spokespeople for both counties remarked how many of their residents are students at Red Deer College and others who will use the facility once it is built.

Over the next four years the college will work at raising the remaining $25 million dollars for the centre.

Ground breaking is slated for later this year and work will begin in the spring of 2016.