Pier Rink in dan­ger of clos­ing

‘I’ll never for­get the peo­ple who went around can­vass­ing for this rink’

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID JALA david.jala@cb­post.com

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.

CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTO

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.

Pear­son

Mom­bour­quette

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