Penticton hockey legend Ivan McLelland reflects on his memories of Memorial Arena in 2017. (Western News file photo)

Penticton arena’s will get Band-Aid solution for now

Penticton city council decided to return the $6 million Strategic Priorities Fund

Penticton’s aging arenas will receive a Band-Aid solution for now as the drive to build a new twin-sheet ice rink will take a little longer than expected.

Penticton city council decided to return the $6-million Strategic Priorities Fund grant to the Union of BC Municipalities as the conditions of the grant, including securing the rest of the needed funding sources, could not be met before the deadline of March 31, 2019

At the regular council meeting on March 19, council directed staff to plan the base building repairs for McLaren and Memorial Arenas, as required to keep the buildings operational for the short-term for up to 10 years. Kozak said this would cost about $6 million for Memorial Arena and $1.5 million for McLaren Arena.

READ ALSO: Penticton may have to give up $6M arena grant

City staff are now tasked with developing a long-term funding plan for replacement or upgrade of the facilities in the next 10 years, but multiple members on council expressed that they’d prefer to see this done sooner rather than later.

“The desire throughout this process was to have twin sheets. So I would be happy if we can continue to reach for that goal because that’s what we’ve found is most desirable for our community,” said Coun. Campbell Watt. “Understanding the fact that it’s not going to happen overnight or as quickly as we hoped.”

Watt added that he wanted the city to move forward as quickly as possible, rather than putting a 10-year time on it.

READ ALSO: Business case for new Penticton arena being updated

“It makes sense that we’re going to put the Band-Aids on it as we need to, moving forward to what we’ve already established as the community’s ultimate goal of having twin sheets.”

Initially procured in 2017 to aid in the construction of a new arena facility to replace both Memorial and McLaren Arenas, the grant was awarded on the condition that the city could secure the rest of the needed funding sources by March 2019, despite having a spending deadline of 2024.

“So suddenly our window to 2024 shrunk by five years in order to confirm the funding sources, which is quite a challenge for a project with this kind of significance,” said Bregje Kozak, director of recreation and culture with the city.

In 2017, the city conducted a study of its existing arenas and determined both aging arenas were in “poor or fair condition” according to Kozak. She said the average life expectancy of a community facility that uses ice or water is between 30 to 35 years and Memorial is 68 years old and McLaren is 48 years old.

An arena task force was also created in 2017, which conducted numerous studies and garnered community feedback to determine the best way to deal with the aging facilities. Their recommendation, which was endorsed by the council at the time, was an expansion onto the west side of the South Okanagan Events Centre that would act as a twin-pad facility to replace the two arenas, with Memorial being converted to a multi-sport, dry floor facility and McLaren being decommissioned.

The twin-pad facility would seat 200 to 300 spectators per ice surface and feature adequate changing rooms, training and dry land warm up areas. The price tag for this vision at the time was $34 million, and when the Strategic Priorities Fund grant became available, council directed staff to apply although the project was in its early stages.

City staff then began to look further into the true cost of the project, including the 20-year lifecycle cost associated with each building in order to keep it operational. The total capital cost for the project was determined to be $37,120,059 and the lifecycle costs of the new facility and a renovated Memorial Arena would be $11,600,146.

Kozak said staff met with community leaders in the summer last year to gauge their interest and support for the arena project and found them to be supportive but said there were too many other priorities in the community right now.

“What we wanted to see was, in addition to the $6-million grant we did have, an additional grant and private funding opportunities targeting about $10 to $12 million to bring down the total cost of that project, so it’s a little bit more viable for the city,” said Kozak. “In terms of a cost-benefit analysis, this project should be considered in the overall lens of best value for the city. While the initial costs are high for the recommended option, the other option of continuing to provide bare minimum investment into the facilities is unsustainable. And the functionality of the buildings would also become obsolete over time.”

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