Red Deer running short of ice: report

While hockey players anxiously await the construction of the new Red Deer Arena, a consultant’s report indicates the city may need as many as two new indoor ice sheets within the next 10 years.

While hockey players anxiously await the construction of the new Red Deer Arena, a consultant’s report indicates the city may need as many as two new indoor ice sheets within the next 10 years.

A combination of population growth and aging facilities could force Red Deer’s hand after the completion of the newest ice rink in 2018.

Mike Roma, of RC strategies of Edmonton, outlined the Ice Facilities Plan and Research Report that was commissioned by the city at Monday’s city council meeting. Part of the presentation was the coming need for new rinks.

“(Red Deer) will need at least another additional ice sheet by 2021,” said Roma. “And possibly two in the next 10 plus years.”

Council adopted the consultant’s report as a planning tool for city administration. To sustain the city’s existing ice facilities, the report says it will cost about $6.2 million.

After the completion of the new Red Deer Arena, the next rink that needs to be assessed is the Kinex which is located behind the arena. The report points to the G.H. Dawe Centre as the ideal location for a new ice pad, provided the upgrade is deemed viable at the time. If the Dawe upgrade is not viable, then adding a sheet to the Collicutt is the backup plan.

As outlined in the report, there may be a need for an additional ice sheet beyond the Kinex’s replacement (if the 2019 assessment indicates it should be replaced).

The new arena being built at Red Deer College and its community use will have to be considered by then. City manager Craig Curtis told council he believes it will have a major impact on the community’s ice usage.

Coun. Ken Johnston said the report shows a need to make investments in the medium and short term to defend what we have.

The city operates six indoor, including the recently demolished Red Deer Arena which will be replaced with a new facility by 2018, and 36 outdoor facilities with a total of 75 ice surfaces throughout the city’s neighbourhoods.

Those 75 outdoor ice surfaces put Red Deer in a class of their own in the study. Compared to communities including Thunder Bay, Ontario; St. Albert; Strathcona County; Aurora, Ontario; Edmonton and Lethbridge, Red Deer has a significant number of outdoor ice spaces. Red Deer has 0.77 outdoor rinks per 1,000 residents while Lethbridge has 0.03. The closest community to Red Deer in the study was Thunder Bay who had 0.52 outdoor rinks per 1,000 residents.

The outdoor rinks cost $700,000 for the city to maintain, while indoor facilities range between $95,000 and $300,000.

The report also outlined future planning and provided some guides for future planning. It proposes striking a balance between organized and spontaneous activities as drop-in opportunities are becoming more important.

Currently the city has one sheet of indoor ice per 16,801 residents and for future planning, the report suggests a target ratio of 15,000 residents per indoor rink.

Rink ratio is one potential trigger, but others discussed include current facility conditions, population growth and geographic distribution and utilization of existing facilities in the 80-90 per cent range.

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