2013 was quite the Gardens partyMonday, December 30, 2013 by: Steve Hardy
Let’s call it the Year of the Rink.
For something that can’t speak (or for that matter, defend itself) North Bay Memorial Gardens spent an awful lot of time in the spotlight in 2013.
The highlight – the return of the Ontario Hockey League to town as the Brampton Battalion became the North Bay Battalion.
The lowlight – a cost overrun of $3.6 million for renovations to the almost 60-year-old facility.
A $12-millon upgrade to the facility, built in 1955 was key to the OHL deal to move the hockey club.
That number now stands almost $4 million higher.
When the puck dropped on Oct 11 in front of a crowd of more than 4,200 fans, it was quite the Gardens party. The polar opposite mode prevailed at a mid-December news conference where North Bay mayor Al McDonald announced an audit into a huge cost overrun.
No date has been set for the release of the results.
The ongoing construction in the area of Lakeshore Drive and Pinewood Park Drive was a large thorn in the side of city council in 2013.
The project will likely be two years old by the time it finishes. Case L’Ami, owner of L’ami’s Garden Centre, made several appearances at city council meetings and took the city to task for the continuing delays, which he said were devastating his business.
There were certainly highlights, too.
The city is poised to pass the second-straight sub-two per cent tax levy, the city’s Airport Industrial Business Park, which was officially unveiled in June and officials say it is attracting interest.
North Bay mayor Al McDonald was also encouraged by a change in provincial Liberal government’s language regarding the future of the ONTC. The government now says it is looking to “transform” the ONTC, instead of the original divestment mandate.
Although, the sale of any or all of the ONTC’s assets was not taken completely off the table.
Memorial Gardens popped back into the news in the year’s final week as North Bay hosted the World Ringette Championships, returning to the spot where the game was invented by Sam Jacks 50 years ago.
And fittingly enough, the Gardens is set to host the city’s Families First Celebration (which includes a match between the Battalion and arch-rival Sudbury Wolves at 2 p.m.) to close out a roller-coaster 12 months for the grand old lady of hockey rinks.