Mindemoya arena’s ice plant needs repairs so council decides Prov arena will serve township

The J.H. Burt Memorial Arena in Mindemoya is closed for the season due to ice plant issues.

MINDEMOYA – Representatives of the Mindemoya Minor Hockey Association (MMHA) are upset and frustrated with a decision by Central Manitoulin council to close the Mindemoya arena due to a brine pump line break at the arena, and for staff to prepare a capital budget to fix all known problems at the arena. Artificial ice will be put in the Providence Bay arena as soon as possible for use by groups like MMHA and others this winter.

“Last Friday (November 26) I received the message that there had been a break in the brine line pump at the Mindemoya arena. Our teams were allowed to play last Friday and Saturday, and on Monday, there was a sign put up at the arena that it was going to be closed until further notice,” said Kennedy Lanktree, vice-president of the Mindemoya Minor Hockey Association. “Metal Air was to come in Monday and investigate the break, and George Strain (arena maintenance supervisor) has given an estimate on how much it is going to cost.”

“No, the break in the brine pump line is not why we as an association are so frustrated,” Ms. Lanktree told the Expositor. “The most frustrating thing that this is the same conversation we have every year, which rink is going to be open (Mindemoya or Providence Bay). The MMHA has indicated repeatedly that we prefer to play out of Mindemoya. And, last night, council decided to close the rink for the year instead of investing $22,000-$23,000 to get the issue resolved.”

Ms. Lanktree said that not only the MMHA, but also Manitoulin Secondary School, the Lakers and the Hackers groups have always agreed they want to use the Mindemoya arena.

“It has always been a battle every year as to which arena would open, Mindemoya or the Providence Bay arena,” said Ms. Lanktree. “Now council is saying natural ice will be put in Mindemoya if the weather is good, but it is not solid enough to hold the gauge pump.”  

“It is just a lot of frustration,” Brian Stapleton, president  of the MMHA, told The Expositor. “It seems this is the same fight Mindemoya minor hockey has been involved with for years. One of our biggest concerns is that artificial ice will be put in Providence Bay and natural ice in Mindemoya without running the plant.”

“And the worst thing is  MMHA is the largest user group in the entire municipality and we are being treated like this,” said Mr. Stapleton, noting the association rents the Mindemoya arena five days a week. “It is because of a total lack of maintenance of the arena. That is the biggest issue.”

Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens told The Expositor, “we had a major break in the line delivery run that affected the pump line system in the (Mindemoya) arena.” He said council had made the decision that, with the age of the two arenas and their equipment, they had looked at a new building as the cost of repairing and bringing them up to standard did not make financial sense. Funding, however, was not approved. Consideration is still being given by a municipal committee investigating a new location and funding for a new building. 

Mayor Stephens contacted M’Chigeeng First Nation about using their arena but found out it was closed for at least a couple more weeks, putting things well into December. “Our dilemma is whether to put $25,000-$30,000 into repairs at the Mindemoya arena, or look at alternatives, such as a new arena or upgrading the Mindemoya arena. “We know the minor hockey group has about 110 kids registered in hockey for this year, with about 30 kids from M’Chigeeng.” 

“I know minor hockey is not in favour of using the Providence Bay arena instead and the Lakers and Hackers did not want to have to move to the smaller rink in Providence Bay, but what else could we do?” said Mayor Stephens. He explained the repairs to the brine pump line system would take to December 20 or even later. So council’s decision was to put artificial ice in Providence Bay.” 

Mayor Stephens said staff will be preparing capital budget costs for the committee of the whole to review in January to fix all the known problems at the Mindemoya arena and look at this and other options including the new building proposal. He noted that the chiller, for example, is another piece of equipment in the Mindemoya arena that is near the end of its life cycle.

Councillor Derek Stephens voted in favour of closing the Mindemoya arena and putting artificial ice in Providence Bay arena. “I’ve warned council for years that to really fix up the Mindemoya arena it is going to cost between $250,000-$300,000 to bring it up to par. We have another perfectly good arena in the municipality that we can use and we are going to do that for this year. And, we have to come up with a plan for a new arena/complex and get serious with this.”

“It was a non-productive meeting,” stated Councillor Steve Shaffer. “I want to know why the line broke.  The bottom line is everything is being put off for another two or three months to see what the costs of all the problems are with the arena and go from there.”

Councillor Rose Diebolt said, “the Mindemoya arena is extremely important to the community. We need to find the best solution.”

“I’m not comfortable with a quick fix to the problem,” said Councillor Angela Johnston. “I am concerned about the safety of staff and users of the arena, and the equipment in the arena is old. My hope is that we get the estimates and look at the whole picture of the future of the Mindemoya arena instead of quick fixes and have it break down again. By next September we can either have a solid plan in place to upgrade the Mindemoya arena or have a solid plan in place on a new arena.” 

Councillor Dale Scott said the municipality could probably have spent the money on the repairs to the brine line pump at the Mindemoya arena now. “We could fix it and it might last the season or it might not. And the chiller is old as well. It could easily be a quarter of a million dollars to invest in the Mindemoya arena to upgrade it fully. The arena in Providence Bay can be ready to go in a few days, and there is a new chiller there.”

“I know council’s decision is not a popular choice among users of the (Mindemoya) arena,” said Councillor Scott, “especially since the majority of kids in minor hockey and the other groups are from Mindemoya and it will mean extra travel to games and practices for the players and their parents.”

Mr. Stapleton pointed out, “we have over 100 children playing hockey in the Mindemoya arena through minor hockey. Ninety percent live in Mindemoya or on the outskirts. Now the children and their families will have to travel the rough highway, during all kinds of winter conditions, to a smaller arena.” 

“It’s an ongoing battle. What I don’t understand is why, in the off-season, maintenance is not kept up so these types of breaks in equipment don’t occur,” questioned Ms. Lanktree.