A consultant report suggests Memorial Arena (pictured here) and McLaren Arena both need to be demolished to make way for a twin-rink facility. (Brennan Phillips Western News)

Penticton’s Memorial Arena deemed too old to keep, says consultant

Many of Penticton’s most iconic facilities are aging out but hold sentimental value

If there is one thing that holds true, it is buildings can hold sentimental value and some of Penticton’s favourite venues are being looked at to be sold or demolished.

Council got its first look at the results of an 18-month study of the city’s most aging buildings and what should be done with them. Mayor and council vocalized their concerns with demolishing parts of Penticton’s history.

The consultant, Colliers Project Leaders, was hired in 2019 to looking at the city’s oldest facilities and look at whether to prolong their life or get rid of them to build bigger, more efficient buildings.

One of the most iconic venues on the chopping block is Memorial Arena, a mainstay for hockey families over the decades.

“The community would never allow us to tear it down,” said mayor John Vassilaki at last week’s meeting.

“Memorial has a place in people’s hearts,” he added. McLaren Arena is also suggested to be demolished to make way for a twin rinks facility at a more ‘central’ location.

Coun. James Miller questioned if destroying an iconic venue like Memorial to make room for 24 more parking stalls for the casino is really the best plan.

“I feel connected to the game of hockey, to the past and to Canada when I go into Memorial Arena,” said Miller.

But the amount of money pouring into maintaining Memorial will cost the city too much, said the report. It has outlived its life according to Colliers.

The recommendations also included selling off Penticton Art Gallery to make a large arts and cultural centre to house the gallery, library and museum at a different location.

The library and museum are also in need of demolition, said the report.

The art gallery is in a prime location near the beach and would fetch top dollar if sold, said the consultant.

“Penticton Art Gallery is in a prime location but that should be for our taxpayers to enjoy,” said the mayor.

The aging facilities on the list are valued at over $300 million, said the city report. If the city implements the recommendations, Penticton residents would enjoy facilities lasting over the next 30 to 50 years, with modern functionality that are cheaper to maintain, reduce an environmental footprint at a price tag that is $20 million less than simply repairing the existing amenities, said the consultant’s report. Council voted in favour of moving the recommendations along to the next phase which will be immense public engagement, said city staff.

Here are some of the recommendations:

1. Create a new arts and cultural centre to house the Penticton Art Gallery, library and museum all at a new location. Sell all the buildings they currently occupy to cover the costs of new construction.

2. Demolish both Memorial and McLaren arenas and build a new twin-rinks facility in a more ‘central’ location closer to SOEC. Sell McLaren Arena and turn the Memorial Arena site into parking.

3. Replace Fire Hall No. 1 and house bylaw services, community policing and Penticton’s emergency operations centre there.

4. Leir House will be leased at commercial rates. Cleland Theatre’s audiovisual equipment will be upgraded and enter into an operating agreement. This will support reinvestment into the SOEC being the entertainment hub.

The engagement process with the public will occur in phases and council will receive updates throughout the process.

The recommended scenario would cost around $100 million and would be dependant on the rezoning, selling and leasing of the affected city properties.

READ MORE: The Library,museum, Art Gallery, Memorial and McLaren are among targets for replacement