City staff and members of Penticton Arena Task Force conducted tours Thursday of Memorial Arena.
During the program the 43 members of the public learned about the history of the 66-year-old structure, it’s current condition and what needs to be done to keep it in operation.
The 14-member task force, made up of user group and community members began work in January to come up with recommendations regarding the city’s arenas, specifically Memorial and McLaren.
From now until May-June when the members will finalize recommendations to council, the task force will look at ice-surface needs, detailed repair for versus replacement costs and the financial impacts of available options.
The general public is encouraged to share ideas throughout the process.
The city has indicated the roof, arena structure, electrical and major mechanical systems at Memorial need to be repaired or replaced.
Reports say $7 million is needed just to keep the doors open and up to $13.5 million to convert the ice to National Hockey League size among other updates.
McLaren will require an estimated $1.4 million in repairs and updates over the next five years.
The estimate to build a new arena (likely in another location) is $16 to $17 million with an additional $1.5 million to demolish Memorial.
Ivan McLelland, a Penticton hockey legend and member of the 1955 World Championship Penticton Vees, was at Thursday’s tour.
“I remember the very first day I walked into this building in 1951, it wasn’t complete. I was here to try out for the original Penticton Vees,” recalled McLelland. “The structure, I mean this was high tech, I’d been in a lot of arenas but I’d never seen anything quite like this beautiful building. It was pretty impressive for a 20-year-old kid.”
He remembered the packed building every game and standing ovations and even turning down New York Rangers coach Frank Boucher’s offer of a pro contract to spend another season in Penticton.
“He (Boucher) said to me, ‘you really like it there son,’ and I said yes I do, and he said: ‘Okay stay another year,’ and here we are 61 years later and I’m still here.”
But from a business perspective McLelland believes the matter should be looked at objectively and the city should not throw “good money after bad” if it is not justified.
“But in the end I hope we see that we have something truly unique here,” he said. “Something Pat Quinn said 50 cities across Canada would love to have and to have the history, it’s ours we own it and that will all go. If the building is structurally safe I think we should do whatever we can to try and retain something else in Canada nobody else has.”
Like the Sicamous, Memorial with it’s rich history, McLelland feels could be a tourist attraction as well as working facility.
“Memorial Arena brings back wonderful memories. We had a five-year saga and this is where that saga was born.”