Ice Users State Their Reason for Keeping Arenas Open
thursday january 16, 2014
Before a large gathering who attended last nights information meeting at Sarnia City Hall the message was clear. There is not enough ice.
The Arena Strategy report by City Staff is recommending the repurposing of Germain Arena at the end of the 2013-14 season and the possible closure or sale to Lambton College Students Rink 2 of the RBC Centre in 2015.
"We are not shutting arenas down." City Parks and Recreation Director Ian Smith said in his opening remarks. "What we are recommending is repurposing them, give them new life, give them to the other sports in the community."
Smith also said that if the RBC wasn't on Lambton College property then the RBC rink two would be one of the two facilities kept open. "If the College does purchase Rink 2 the College is looking to build a building to connect to the college and use it as a stand alone facility."
Smith also included in his remarks that there have been discussion that if the arenas are repurposed this will give the community opportunities to host indoor soccer tournaments, indoor OFSSA events for basketball, volleyball and other multitude of events at the RBC.
However contrary to that comment both Brad Jackson speaking on behalf of Sarnia Girls Hockey and Mike Johnson, Chairman of the Sarnia Boys Hockey made comments on the ramifications of the closures to ice surfaces to two major tournaments that is held each year.
They provided information regarding Sarnia Boys and Sarnia Girls Silver Stick Tournaments that attract over 6,000 tourist each year that brings in an estimated 3.4 million dollars annually to the City. Without the two ice surfaces this will jeopardize the continuance of the tournaments.
"We are bringing in 93 teams this weekend starting Friday morning." said Sarnia Boys Hockey Chairman Mike Johnson "There isn't one motel room in the city available and they are booking outside of town, that is a huge financial impact on our City."
In the city report it indicated that numbers of users were declining. But according to Johnson of the Sarnia Hockey Association, the biggest group of ice said their numbers have remain constant for the last five years.
"Close two arenas there is no more room for growth." Johnson said "We have to reduce our programs. Some is going to fall away and we are going to lose kids."
Mike Kelly, President of Lambton AAA Hockey Association also spoke and opposed the closing of RBC rink 2. Currently the Lambton AAA hockey only uses the two ice surfaces at the RBC Centre.
"Our weekly ice usage is approx 38 hours per week. We tried to get additional ice in the county we could not. To see RBC rink 2 go will be devastating to us, I have no idea where we will get ice or how we will support our teams.
Both Kelly and Johnson mentioned that the youth leagues are under Hockey Canada mandates. There is restrictions on how early travel teams can play and how late games are played to allow for travel.
Other youth groups affected by the possible ice closing is the Bluewater Regional Figure Skating Centre. Mark Moore a professional figure skating coach with the Bluewater Centre said they have been in operation at the RBC Centre for 20 years and run Spring, Summer and Fall programs.
"There have been many skaters from this area that have gone on to National and International levels with the use of the year round facilities." Moore said. "Our concern of the closure of rink 2 is that it will leave us no room for growth. We don't want to turn the young away simply because there is no ice available."
Not only would the closure of the two ice pads have an impact on youth sports but adult recreation hockey leagues and senior recreational skating stated their concerns.
"With the closure of the two arenas and youth sports taking spots there may not be room for adult leagues." said McKenzie Horner who plays in the women's league, runs a co-ed pick up hockey league and also coaches high school hockey. "The woman's league has women sometimes just starting at age 30-40 & 50 and some are in their 60's still playing. It's huge."
Sarnia taxpayers pays $18.00 per capita towards Parks and Recreation. The Provincial average is $58.00. Anita Trusler Health Promoter for Lambton Public Health|County of Lambton suggested that we should be investing more in our community.
"We should be investing more into our community recreation and sports and it should be considered as one of the essential services on behalf of our community."
"An important statistic that $1 dollar that we invest in recreation and sport $11 is saved in health care in our country." Trusler said "Unfortunately we don't see the savings at a municipal level but it is important for our community."
"We need to care about our community, it isn't just a financial business plan."