Pier Rink in danger of closing
‘I’ll never forget the people who went around canvassing for this rink’
When Jack Pearson steps through the front doors of the Pier Rink, he often stops and remembers the faces of those who made the community arena a reality 50 years ago.
“I can still see their faces — all the people who worked so hard to make this place the centre of activity in Whitney Pier, I still see them when I go to the rink, I’ll never forget the people who went around canvassing for this rink,” said the 78-year-old, who sits on the volunteer board of the rink.
“It would be a crying shame to lose it, but the bottom line is that the community has to get behind it and support it or else — if the public doesn’t want to come out and support the building then we’re going to have to close it.”
Today, Pearson is fighting to keep the rink from going the way of so many other buildings in a Whitney Pier that has far fewer businesses, schools and churches than it did in its heyday when Sydney’s economy was fuelled by the nearby steel plant.
And with a depleted population, the community arena has seen fewer patrons over the past few years. The latest blow, according to Pearson, was the Sydney Minor Hockey League’s decision to move the 21 weekly hours it had booked at the Pier Rink to the new Membertou sports complex that boasts two sheets of ice.
“We’re not blaming them — I mean, minor hockey in Sydney started here at the Pier Rink, so, no, we’re not pointing any fingers,” he said.
Nonetheless, the SMHA’s withdrawal left the community facility with expenses greater than its revenues. The biggest financial worry at the moment is the facility’s outstanding Nova Scotia power bill that is said to be more than $8,000.
The utility company had threatened to turn off the electricity if the bill wasn’t paid by Thursday, but after reaching out to NSP officials, local MLA Derek Mombourquette said the power off order has been put on hold to give the rink board time to develop a plan.
“We’re trying to work out a plan with Nova Scotia Power, this is something the board will have to work out — but, at this point, the power is not being turned off,” said the SydneyWhitney Pier Liberal MLA.
“This is where the community is going to need to rally to support the rink, it’s going to be on the community to come together — we need people using the rink, we need to see the facility being utilized, and there are things like family skating and ice rentals, but we need more.”
Pearson said he expects the board to meet today in hopes of organizing a community meeting on the future of the rink that is located below the graveyard at the corner of Lingan Road and Church Street. The Pier-raised volunteer said he’s also hoping that some new faces take on the leadership needed to keep the arena alive.
According to area councillor Jim MacLeod, the half-century old facility received just over $25,000 from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality thus far this season. Of those funds, more than $18,000 was spent on two condenser units.
MacLeod said the CBRM, which owns the land, but not the building, is expected to carry out an engineering assessment on the structure that was erected in 1967.
Meanwhile, board member and Pier resident Kim Sheppard has started an online GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the community arena.
Madison Corbett launches a puck at goalie Riley White during the Glace Bay Miners Girls Bantam AA practice at the Whitney Pier Rink on Thursday. The 50-year-old community arena is struggling financially and its board is expected to meet today to discuss its future.