Central falls short in new rink funding bid

Mindemoya Arena

CENTRAL MANITOULIN – The municipality put its best foot forward in a bid to secure funding for a new modern multiplex facility that would have consolidated Central Manitoulin’s arena and community services into one location that would have been based in Mindemoya, but in the end that effort fell short when the pie was divvied up at Queen’s Park.

“There’s not much to say—we didn’t get the money,” said Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens. “We are disappointed, but as we learned in the letter from the minister, they had $1 billion in funding and $10 billion worth of applications.”

Although the bid fell short, the municipality is not totally giving up hope for a future shot at the goal.

“We did everything we thought we could,” said Mayor Stephens. “Now I guess we just wait for the next opportunity to arise.” In the meantime, the property committee will be assessing the municipality’s available assets and charting the best course forward. “I have put it into the hands of our property councillor (Steve Shaffer),” he said. “I understand from our recreational councillor (Angela Johnston) that there are a number of people on that committee that will likely stay on with the group.”

“Well, I can’t say I am surprised,” said hockey parent Adam Smith. “I think it was pretty much a shot in the dark. To be honest, I am surprised any of that funding went through given the current state of finances with the province. It’s too bad, it would have been nice to have a modern facility.”

Lyle Dewar of Providence Bay has been a vocal opponent of the project from the start. “I am sure happy, I’ll tell you that,” he said when contacted on Monday about the news. “It would have been a shame to destroy a beautiful part of Mindemoya and a waste of money.”

Mr. Dewar said that he felt the communities’ facilities were currently in good shape and in no need of replacement. “We have spent so much money on our arenas,” he said. “We have done a great job of keeping them up. There are new covers for the fans, we have new efficient lighting, to destroy all of that would be such a waste.”

Mr. Dewar said that the effort that went into the Old School Park by community volunteers where the proposed new facility would be located, would also be lost. “All that community effort would be for naught,” he said.

“There were something like a thousand people who signed a petition against the multipurpose centre,” he said. “Then there is the money from the Blue Jays for the work on the ball field, it all seems like such a waste, never mind the increase taxes everyone would end up paying for the new building. Why replace what we have that is already working?”

But parent, teacher and physical fitness advocate Michael Bridgeman, one of the strongest proponents of the new facility disagrees with Mr. Dewar’s assessment.

“I am disappointed, of course,” he said. “It was probably a pretty big ask, coming from such a small community, but we are going to have to look at replacing our aging infrastructure. Mindemoya is growing.”

“From a personal standpoint, as a teacher and as a parent, I would like to see more emphasis from government being put on physical fitness. You look at the health care cost down the line, the health care budget just keeps growing.”

Mr. Bridgeman notes that the community only has a five-year window in order to meet the terms of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). “This all came up when we were first looking at having to pour a million and a half dollars into our old building in order to become compliant,” he said. “The year 2025 isn’t that far off.”

It is a concern that some members of municipal council are also looking at with some alarm.

“Well, the only thing I can comment on is that now we have to start taking a serious look at the decisions on what we are going to do with our existing facilities,” said Central Manitoulin Councillor Derek Stephens, who had been a strong proponent for the new facility during debate on the project at council.