Randy Manuel said he is on the fence when it comes to the future of Penticton’s Memorial Arena.
It all depends on what they find under the building. If the pilings the 66-year-old arena sits on are in good shape, and other problems can be repaired, the historian and former museum curator said there is good case to keep it going.
There is also the possibility of a $6-million grant, which could be used to refurbish arenas, or go to build a new one.
“Say you get the whole thing done for $15 million and you’ve got six of that from another taxpayers pocket. And you squeeze 30 years out of it. That’s that’s not bad. Maybe even 40, again depending on the piles and if you can put new ones in,” said Manuel, adding that it would also depend on being able to install new glulam beams to replace the current ones, which are showing signs of decay in spots.
On the other hand, Manuel points out that no building lasts forever, including Memorial Arena, saying the end must come sometime.
“If you get another 60 years out of new beams, then you’ve got a 120-year-old building,” said Manuel “I’ll be pushing daisies and somebody else can make that decision.”
Manuel also talked about the strong emotional ties that Pentictonites have for the arena and hockey in the city, more so than in neighbouring and larger communities, like Kelowna, Vernon and Kamloops. When it was built in 1951, Memorial Arena had the capacity to seat nearly half of Penticton’s population at that time and was full most game nights.
“Part of it was based on the personalities of the Warwick brothers who had come here from Edmonton and had the killer instinct so to speak,” said Manuel. “Plus they were personalities in themselves and that they had their own place on Main Street called Warwick’s cafe where supposedly they kept the original Allan Cup which they were supposed to return at the end of the season.”
The Warwick’s were members of the legendary 1955 Penticton Vees, who won the World Ice Hockey Championships that year, beating the Soviet Union 5-0, the year after they won the Allan Cup.
“If those things had not happened, you’d still have the historical value of the building but it wouldn’t be as strong in people’s hearts,” said Manuel.
The Arena Task Force is working to prepare a grant application before the July 30 deadline.
“The timing for the grant application is tight so we want to inform the community about the work that needs to happen and provide as many opportunities as possible to get involved,” says Stewart Ladyman, chair of the Penticton Arena Task Force.
That includes an open house scheduled for June 28 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre to share the draft findings of the McLaren and Memorial Arena Study and the New Arena Feasibility Study.
The studies will also be available on shapeyourcitypenticton.ca.