There are 10 words the Penticton Minor Hockey Association (PMHA) has heard far too many times over the years — it’s unknown what the future holds for historic Memorial Arena.
The arena, built in 1951 and later renovated in the mid-1960s, is part of Penticton’s history. From being the home of the World Champion Penticton Vees to hosting international sporting events, it’s a building engraved in the city’s story.
But time and time again, the arena has been deemed too old to carry on by the city. After all, the last time the building went through a major renovation was in the mid-1990s.
Still, in the eyes of Darla Roy, Penticton Minor Hockey Association’s administrator, there’s a simple reason as to why the city finds itself having more questions than answers about the building.
“They used to paint the bleachers every year and all this maintenance would be done but nothing has been done recently,” she said. “If they had just maintained it properly, we wouldn’t be in this position right now.”
The lack of maintenance has plagued the arena, according to Roy. Even though the city worked on fixing the roof a few years ago, she says not enough has been done to keep the piece of Penticton’s history intact without any yearly question marks reigning from city council.
Penticton’s Civic Places and Spaces project suggests that Memorial Arena is too old to keep and should be demolished.
The long-term plan was initially penned in September and city council is going through the early stages of the project.
It’s been proposed to both council and the public that the Memorial and McLaren arenas should be demolished to make room for a brand-new twin rinks facility.
Roy understands the age of the Penticton’s current hockey rink is a concern. That doesn’t mean, however, that everything about the long-term plan adds up and makes sense to the PMHA.
“I understand the building is older and needs some work but I don’t think we need another NHL-size rink,” she said. “If they want to build another one or two, then great.
“But we shouldn’t lose (Memorial) for 10 or 18 parking spots. What shame that would be.”
The South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC) in Penticton, built in 2009, is as close to an NHL-sized sheet of ice as there’s going to be. That’s why Roy doesn’t see the need for the city to demolish a historic arena for another new rink.
Roy has been asked about the future of Memorial Arena for several years. This conversation isn’t new for the association’s administrator, but there’s still something that feels a little different about the debate this time around.
“I think the city is actually investigating whether this plan is viable or not,” she explained. “I don’t think it was like that before.”
The demolition of Memorial Arena would be devastating for Roy. It’s the place she watched her first Penticton Vees game at the age of 12. The community feel and charm of the building made the arena one of Roy’s favourite places to go.
But now, the age-old conversation has returned and that’s no surprise to the association’s administrator.
City council last provided an update on the Civic Places and Spaces plan on Dec. 7. Over 60 per cent of people who participated in the city’s online public feedback form supported the project as a whole.
Still, there are a number of questions that need to be answered before a final decision can be made on the status of one of the city’s most iconic civic buildings.
At a meeting in September, Penticton mayor John Vassilaki said the community would never allow them to tear down Memorial.
“I feel connected to the game of hockey, to the past and to Canada when I go into Memorial Arena,” said Coun. James Miller.
The city is expected to provide an update on the plan sometime in early 2022.