VERNON – As plans for a new ice sheet in Vernon move to referendum, the aging Civic Arena it would replace continues to need costly fixes. The Mayor of Vernon is defending the spending to keep the old rink operating but hopes voters will be on board with borrowing to build a new rink.
“The Civic Arena is approaching 80 years of age and it is deteriorating,” says Doug Ross, the director of recreation services for the city. “We have our fingers crossed that we make it through each ice season.”
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The future of the aging facility is now in the hands of Greater Vernon voters. A referendum next month will look to residents for permission to borrow $13.25 million to replace the Civic Arena with a new ice sheet beside Kal Tire Place.
In the meantime, the city has to keep pouring money into the aging arena. Previously, city council approved spending up to $75,000 on things like repairing belt guards in the compressor room and fixing washrooms. Some of that work has already be completed while other projects are still underway.
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Mayor Akbal Mund says if they didn’t spend the money to keep the rink going some users would be out of luck.
“It still needs to function so we need to do the small renovations that we can to keep that facility to a level that it is usable,” says Mund.
Even if the borrowing is approved in the November referendum and the new ice rink at Kal Tire Place does go ahead, the Civic Arena will still need to be operational for around three years while the new ice sheet is designed and built. During that time, more money will likely have to be spent just to keep the Civic Arena operational.
Ross says a report done last year estimated it would cost up to $5.6 million to keep the Civic Arena operating for more than five years.
Mund says keeping it open in the long term is not an option.
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“The experts have looked at it. It is not an option to keep putting money into it. It is like a used car, you can put as much money as you want into it,” says Mund. “If we put $10 million over the next 10 years in there, is that worth it or is a new ice surface worth it? You have to balance those two and I feel a new ice surface would be well worth it.”
Mund is hoping voters agree and vote to borrow for the new rink when they head to the polls on November 28.