$12.5 mil­lion hockey fa­cil­ity pitched to Wind­sor res­i­dents

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY COLIN CHISHOLM HANTSJOURNAL.CA

Over 200 peo­ple packed the Hants County War Memo­rial Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on March 19 to learn more about the town’s pro­posed arena project at Long Pond.

Town staff and the ar­chi­tect that has worked on the project pre­sented an up­dated con­cept of the arena, which fea­tures a walk­ing track on the up­per level, a mod­ern, trans­par­ent de­sign, and has a foot­print that fits into the sur­round­ing ter­rain near King’sEdge­hill School on Col­lege Road.

The arena has also jumped up in po­ten­tial cost, pegged now at an es­ti­mated $12.5 mil­lion, well over the $9 mil­lion es­ti­mate coun­cil was work­ing with pre­vi­ously.

Fi­nal costs won’t be known un­til the com­ple­tion of the ten­der process.

Chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Louis Coutinho said dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion that the arena would likely cost $11.4 mil­lion, no mat­ter where it was built.

The town will now need to fundraise ap­prox­i­mately $2.2 mil­lion by March 31 - an am­bi­tious, and ad­mit­tedly un­likely goal.

So far, the town has com­mit­ted $1 mil­lion of its own funds, along with $1 mil­lion from West Hants over five years and $3 mil­lion from the prov­ince. Town staff is hop­ing with an ex­tra $2.2 mil­lion in fundrais­ing, it can get one-third of con­struc­tion costs cov­ered by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Long-term op­er­a­tional costs of the fa­cil­ity are un­known.

It’s likely that Wind­sor coun­cil will re­quest an ex­ten­sion to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s time­line to ap­ply for fund­ing by a year in or­der to se­cure more do­nated funds that can be ap­plied to the town’s ap­pli­ca­tion.

Tal­bot Swee­t­ap­ple, the ar­chi­tect who de­signed the con­cept, gave an over­view of what the arena could look like, in­clud­ing a dig­i­tal walk­through of the de­sign, which also con­tains sit­ting ar­eas, ar­ti­fact and tro­phy cases and a hockey stick shaped ceil­ing/rafters.

Fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tions, res­i­dents of both the Town of Wind­sor and the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of West Hants asked ques­tions and gave com­ments - some were in favour, others had con­cerns.

Sev­eral res­i­dents said it was time for the com­mu­nity to move be­yond the di­vi­sion and work to make the arena a re­al­ity - some­thing they say the town des­per­ately needs.

Others said the lo­ca­tion, near Long Pond and King’s-Edge­hill School, did not make fi­nan­cial sense and also had con­cerns about traf­fic and lack of ac­cess.

Ad­di­tional res­i­dents pointed to the faults in the process it­self, bring­ing the project to a public meet­ing with less than two weeks left to pro­ceed, with very lit­tle public in­put. Some sug­gested a plebiscite would have been ap­pro­pri­ate.

Mayor happy with turnout

Mayor Anna Allen said the meet­ing went bet­ter than she had an­tic­i­pated.

“I felt the peo­ple were very well be­haved, I know there’s a lot of pas­sion in the room,” Allen said. “We did get to hear peo­ple and there’s been les­son learned. The torch has been handed to coun­cil and we’re run­ning and try­ing to do the right thing, and it has been tough.”

She added that she was happy with both the turnout and com­ments coun­cil re­ceived.

“Com­ing into this, I wasn’t sure we were even near the right track, but now I’m a lit­tle more se­cure that we’re closer to it. Give it a lit­tle more time,” she added.

If the de­lay does go through, coun­cil would seek to rene­go­ti­ate with the Wind­sor Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety to ex­tend ice time at the Hants County Ex­hi­bi­tion Arena if the fa­cil­ity is not built for the 2020 sea­son, although the ice plant there is near­ing the end of its life­span and could re­quire ex­pen­sive main­te­nance.

Allen re­it­er­ated that the ci­ti­zens made it clear they want a new rink, but don’t want taxes to go up to pay for one.

She said that coun­cil has no ap­petite to raise taxes ei­ther, which are al­ready per­ceived to be quite high at $1.90 per $100 as­sessed value. Although rel­a­tively high, it is not the high­est in the prov­ince - that ap­pears to go to the town of Lock­e­port, which had a res­i­den­tial tax rate of $2.31 per $100 dur­ing the 2015-2016 tax sea­son.

A few res­i­dents brought up the idea of hold­ing a plebiscite on the arena de­bate, but Allen said it wouldn’t have been fair to the res­i­dents to hold one as con­crete in­for­ma­tion on the scope and scale of the project is just be­com­ing avail­able now.

“Of course we talked about it, but what would we have asked peo­ple? Tonight was the first time we had any­thing to ac­tu­ally show them some­thing, with numbers,” she said.

Fu­ture public meet­ings will be sched­uled as the project con­tin­ues, Allen said.

Fundrais­ing chal­lenge

Jeff Red­den, who is head­ing the project’s fundrais­ing com­po­nent, couldn’t give an ex­act fig­ure on how much has been raised for the arena pro­posal but said that pre­vi­ously, over $300,000 in pledges were re­ceived for the project dur­ing a pre­vi­ous phase, when the Long Pond Arena So­ci­ety was run­ning the ini­tia­tive.

“I am con­fi­dent in the busi­nesses I have spo­ken to,” Red­den said. “I have to re­con­firm their pledges, but I’m con­fi­dent it can be done.”

Con­tained within those pledges is a Hockey Canada Foun­da­tion con­tri­bu­tion of over $100,000, which Red­den said was in­cum­bent on the fa­cil­ity be­ing lo­cated near Long Pond.

In or­der to meet fund­ing goals, at least $2.2 mil­lion will need to be fundraised to build the fa­cil­ity, a tar­get Red­den says likely can’t be met by March 31.

“I’ll be hon­est, I don’t think we can do it by March 31 this year, we can try,” he said. “I’m hop­ing for an ex­ten­sion for 2019 and I feel very con­fi­dent about our fundrais­ing prospects be­cause of the Long Pond story.”

He said he’s hop­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will grant this it­er­a­tion of the rink con­cept an ex­ten­sion to ap­ply for fund­ing, al­low­ing more time to fundraise.

Con­cerns re­main

Sev­eral com­mu­nity mem­bers brought up con­cerns dur­ing the meet­ing, in­clud­ing the fa­cil­ity’s lo­ca­tion, costs - both long term and short term - and more.

Bruce Con­nolly, a re­tired teacher that lives in Wind­sor, moved to Wind­sor in the early 1970s after ob­tain­ing his de­gree from Aca­dia and be­gan teach­ing in the re­gion. He said he’s seen the town de­cline as more ma­jor em­ploy­ers have left the area and he’s con­cerned that a fa­cil­ity like the one pro­posed for Long Pond would be un­sus­tain­able given the town’s cur­rent tax base.

He said the public in­for­ma­tion ses­sion was well pre­sented, but bring­ing all of the in­for­ma­tion to res­i­dents 10 days be­fore a dead­line was un­demo­cratic.

“It was ex­cel­lent how they showed the build­ing, in­side, out­side,” Con­nolly said. “If we’re go­ing to do some­thing like this, then fine, make it spec­tac­u­lar, but let it be seen. Put it where it’s ac­ces­si­ble, where there’s side­walks, lights, restau­rants and a ho­tel. Not hid­den away on King’sEdge­hill land.”

Con­nolly said he’s con­cerned that the pri­vate school is get­ting a rink cour­tesy of the tax­pay­ers’.

“I don’t be­lieve my con­cerns were ad­dressed, and I only got to talk about one-third of what I wanted to talk about be­cause of the time limit,” he said.

COLIN CHISHOLM

A large crowd of over 200 peo­ple came out to learn more about Wind­sor’s pro­posed hockey arena project near Long Pond. Sev­eral peo­ple asked ques­tions, some prais­ing and others slam­ming the project’s mer­its.

COLIN CHISHOLM

Wind­sor res­i­dent Bruce Con­nolly said he’s con­cerned that the public is only get­ting in­volved now, with a short time left be­fore the dead­line to ap­ply for fund­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.