Central Manitoulin arena debate

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New chiller needed but council will put it in Providence Bay arena in case Mindemoya gets new sports complex

CENTRAL MANITOULIN – Highlighted at the Central Manitoulin council meeting on August 22 was the desire to move down to only one arena and just where that edifice should be. Right now, the municipality has two arenas, one in Providence Bay and the other in Mindemoya.

Two recommendations concerning this issue were put to council by the Property Committee. The first was to accept the structural inspection report from Tulloch Engineering for the J.H. Burt Memorial Arena in Mindemoya and to proceed with the tendering process for the planned repairs at an estimated cost of $30,000.

The second recommendation was to install the newly purchased chiller at this same arena.

Council is also looking at going with a multi-purpose sports facility and Councillor Derek Stephens would like to see the old arena and Old School in Mindemoya torn down, and perhaps the community hall, to facilitate this which left the people who want to repurpose the Old School with a drop-in centre for seniors, an art gallery, classes and perhaps a consignment store and indoor track, wondering why the sports complex has to go in that area. As one committee member said, “We are worried about kids running out of the arena and on to the road now. Surely there is other property available where the kids would be safe and there would be plenty of parking.” 

A recreation committee was set up to investigate the potential for this new complex. Silvio Berti, the municipal coordinator, noted at one of the committee’s meetings that a new arena would cost $6 million. When asked if there are grants for new arenas, he said, “No.” 

Councillor Dale Scott then said, “The cost of engineering and design can mitigate things down the road.” Committee members are busy putting together a cohesive financial report and asking different organizations if they would use the multi-purpose complex. Councillor Scott asked if there was any use for Facebook to which committee chair Angela Johnston said, “Yes, but not for the public.”

Councillor Johnston came prepared to the August 24 council meeting with notes and began by saying that doing the recommendations was short-sighted. She said that the two arenas combined have a total usage of 42.5 hours per week. “We do not need two arenas based on our usage,” she asserted. Councillor Johnston went on to say that monies saved could be used for projects that will benefit more members of the municipality. In speaking of the Providence Bay arena, she said that arena is in good shape, but has a smaller ice surface than the Mindemoya rink. “The location,” she went on to say, “does not make it feasible. Mindemoya should be the main arena.” Councillor Johnston then spoke of the cost to bring the arena up to date, including the $30,000 request for repairs as well as the cost of the chiller. She also said that the west wall of this arena is bowing and it may have to be replaced at a cost of $200,000. She concluded by saying that it would cost $1.2 million to bring the arena up to code and that this does not include changes to the washrooms. Councillor Johnston also told council that she doesn’t think the councillors have had ample time to study the issue.

Councillor Derek Stephens noted that tenders are usually more, so would add more on to Councillor Johnston’s figures. He mentioned that the opening for minor hockey is in October and also added that the west wall could be moved further by a bad frost or snow. “Look at the bigger picture,” he said. “One arena could be used in the interim until we decide where we are going.”

Councillor Linda Farquhar then said, “I am not supporting this motion. I think we need an arena in Mindemoya. She also spoke of the costs of snow removal and noted that the purchased chiller could go to the Providence Bay arena. She finished by saying that council should wait until the two absent councillors, Dale Scott and Steven Shaffer, would be in attendance for discussion around the two arenas issue. Councillor Stephens was opposed to this saying, “We cannot stop municipal business because they are not here.”

Ward three Councillor Al Tribinevicius told council that he was surprised at the increase in snow removal. “I am worried about snow loads,” he said. “How little is needed to make that building unsafe?” He went on to point out that statistics show that one arena is sufficient for 10,000 people. “There are seven arenas on the Island for 13,000 people” he noted. “If we move to Prov, what happens to this building? More damage done to it? Empty buildings do all kinds of things. I don’t have an answer.”

“The arena is needed in Mindemoya,” Mayor Richard Stephens asserted. “Most of the activities take place there. A hockey rep should be here,” he added as he expressed his disappointment that none were at the meeting. At the municipality’s budget meeting, Councillor Dale Scott had emphasized this point, saying, “We have to bring in stakeholders. Minor hockey, men’s hockey. They need to be notified. At least we have to have the courtesy of talking with them.” 

The mayor had two thoughts. “Are we a service industry or a finance industry? Needs first and wants second. It will not go over too well with the people who use it for six months. Thirty thousand dollars is well invested. I will continue to support this because I believe that this is what our people want.”

At this point, Councillor Tribinevicius asked the mayor about the federal funding for infrastructure. “Do we have plans for an arena?” he asked. To this, Mayor Stephens said that it was still at sub-committee level.”

“It cannot be deferred,” CAO/Clerk Ruth Frawley said. “It will delay the opening.”

“We have another perfectly fine arena,” Councillor Stephens said, “that will not delay the start of hockey. Prov is structurally sound. There is lots of parking. Minor hockey said they can play out of Prov in the interim.”

The arena question had also been discussed at the Central Manitoulin budget 2019 meeting. The Finance and Economic Development (FED) committee had discussed the design of a new recreational complex. “This is the time to make the decision,” Councillor Stephens said at the time. 

Councillor Shaffer demurred, saying, “I don’t think we have done our homework on what is best.” 

Mayor Stephens agreed with this, saying, “We have to do as Steve says. See what is doable.”

Councillor Johnston then said, “Use Prov until the new complex is built. So it is not a real either/or issue. Prov will close when the new complex is built.” Councillor Johnston has made it clear, though, that the Providence Bay arena will still be used for other events.

It was decided in the end that the newly purchased chiller would go to the Providence Bay arena by default. Councillor Farquhar did not support this motion.

By the meeting’s end, no consensus had been reached on the fate of Central Manitoulin’s two arenas.