City approves funding to review arenas, ice capacity

Does Red Deer need more ice?

Does Red Deer need more ice?

By a vote of 6-3, council approved $75,000 in one-time funding to develop an ice facilities strategic plan that will guide the future of indoor and outdoor rinks on Monday.

Mayor Tara Veer said the city has been flooded with requests from potential partners and user groups to discuss ice capacity and the possibility of twinning an arena in light of the Red Deer Arena project and Red Deer College’s indoor rink.

Veer said the goal is to have the plan completed well before the Red Deer Arena’s replacement is designed so the city could gauge a sense of potential partners.

The plan will look at the state and location of the existing facilities, demographics, population forecasts, trends, city and regional capacity and financial viability.

“This is essentially a fair way for us to acknowledge those requests and look at the whole picture and base our answer on needs and facts as opposed to a more political basis,” said Veer.

The ice study will be positioned within the city’s capital plan and dovetail with the community amenities plan. The city currently does not have any concrete statistics on usage.

It is expected to be completed early in 2016.

Coun. Lawrence Lee said this is an opportunity to look at something that hasn’t been looked at in a long time.

The 1991 Community Services Master Plan and the 2008 Community Asset Needs Assessment painted a broad inventory and condition of city-owned recreation, parks and culture assets.

“I think it is about time that we knew as a city how those resources are being used,” said Lee. “Are they being used effectively? Are there opportunities to save in terms of construction? Is there a need for some of the current ice surfaces? Are there savings to be had? Those are all good questions that we don’t have answers for today.”

The city currently operates six indoor ice arenas, 36 outdoor boarded natural ice surfaces, 35 snowbank rinks, three natural skating ponds and an outdoor long track speed skating oval.

Coun. Frank Wong, a long-time advocate for the twinning of the G.H. Dawe Community Centre arena, voted against the motion. Coun. Tanya Handley and Coun. Buck Buchanan were also opposed.

Wong said the work including the geographic analysis has already been completed.

“As far as I am concerned, we already have the stats,” he said.

In the city’s current 10-year capital plan, twinning of the Dawe arena has been earmarked beyond 2025.

Coun. Dianne Wytnjes said the new arena is not going to be cheap so it’s important the city get it right. She said it also important to look ahead to what may be needed in the future.

The city approved $21.6 million to replace the aging arena last November.

Handley said she is concerned that the plan would come back and knock off items already in the capital plan.

“What are we willing to give up to make ice happen immediately when there are so many other wants from our community that we have heard,” she said. “What are we willing to take out or to adjust? … I understand the timing. It makes good sense.”

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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