Tuesday, October 04, 2011

York Arena gets reprieve from Council
(as published in the Daily Gleaner on October 04/11)

York Arena will remain open to 2014, city councillors decided Monday night.

That will allow time for ice-sport user groups to have demonstrated their use and the amount of demand for the facility once Scotiabank Park South's Grant*Harvey Centre is open.

The new multimillion-dollar indoor ice-hockey arena at Alison Boulevard will be completed in the spring of 2012.

Coun. Mike O'Brien, who was appointed by Mayor Brad Woodside to head up an ad hoc study committee on the arena, was getting ready to hold public meetings, gather data and hear from the Save the York Arena citizens group and other groups eager to keep the facility open.

"We've had no meetings of the ad hoc committee. We were going to start meeting in a few weeks ... but I had some informal discussions with my council mates a week or so ago, and it was quite clear that the vast majority of council was indicating to me that they were very interested in keeping the York Arena," O'Brien said after the vote Monday evening.

It would have been pointless to go through an unnecessary public consultation exercise with councillors already decided to extend the York Arena's lifespan at least in the short term.

O'Brien said there are no new operating cost implications for the 2012 budget because funding for the York Arena's operations was never deleted from the city's annual spending plan.

The funding has been in place pending the outcome of public appeals and a final vote of council on retaining or demolishing the northside arena.

But O'Brien said there may be capital-cost implications if problems crop up. Earlier this year, the city had to invest money to fix the ice plant at York Arena because it had an ammonia leak and needed repairs.

"We've spent a couple of hundred dollars in capital for things that had to be done ... just to keep it open for this year," he said.

"The issue now is to look at the cost report that ADI presented to us a few years ago and go through that and have staff come back with milestones. Things that have to be done."

Public safety and structural integrity will be the foremost capital-cost issues, O'Brien said.

One of the arguments handed to city councillors by the citizens group that wants to see the arena retained is that there's more ice demand than the city can accommodate, he said.

If that's the case, he said, the city should be able to make that assessment by keeping York Arena running at the same time as Grant*Harvey Centre becomes operational.

Coun. Dan Keenan said having the two arenas open and in use should generate some data and resolve the conflict opinions on whether the city needs to keep an ice surface at York Arena.

Keenan wants to see groups committed to keeping York Arena come up with ideas on how to mitigate the extra costs to the city of keeping the structure open.

Coun. Stephen Kelly said it's a good time to look for partnerships and backers who might help out with capital costs to hold onto the York Arena ice surface.

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