Skip to content

Council candidates share their vision for Memorial Gardens

Sport North Bay to candidates: 'Memorial Gardens is a wonderful facility that is very much under-utilized. Do you have specific ideas on how to increase community use and accessibility of this facility?'
2022 10 05 Boost National Pinty's Day 2 (Bob Coles)
The Pinty's Grand Slam Boost National 2022 took over Memorial Gardens earlier in October.

Sport North Bay asked all 29 council candidates in the upcoming municipal election a series of questions pertinent to the organization and the community at large.

This part of the survey states "Memorial Gardens is a wonderful facility that is very much under-utilized," then asks, "Do you have specific ideas on how to increase community use and accessibility of this facility?"

BayToday's extensive election reporting can be found here.

Below are the responses from all of the candidates who participated, in reverse alphabetical order. Some answers have been edited for clarity.

Tanya Vrebosch

The City used to be in the concert business at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to taxpayers if shows didn't sell. We do support the Capitol Centre which brings in shows. And, for private promoters, the Gardens is available for rent at their own risk. Sudbury and Orillia are competitors and tend to be the ones that get the bigger acts due to higher populations (Sudbury is three times our size) and bigger budgets (Casino Rama). 

Outside of concerts, I would love to see us do more community events. We don't put a lot of emphasis on rec and leisure and I have to say that it falls off the radar as we focus more on capital projects. Throughout COVID, I have been paying more attention to rec and leisure and have been the driving force behind Drive Through Santa / Easter Bunny, more fireworks and Movie in the Park.  It's the little things that bring communities together. 

It doesn't have to cost a lot and we can work with third parties, we just need to put some more emphasis on it as well as cut the red tape and bureaucracy. We can learn a lot from what we did with economic development.  I have been pushing for a group similar to the DART committee to help support people in the community that wish to put on an event or activity — remove or reduce the red tape and bureaucracy and make it easier to put on their event or activity.  

Arenas are not just arenas, they are Community Centres. I am open to hearing ideas on how we can do this with Memorial Gardens or any other facility or park in our City.

Bill Vrebosch

I assume that this question is not in reference to ice rentals, given that our ice is not under-utilized. I assume instead you mean that Memorial Gardens is
under-utilized in terms of other uses, such as conventions and concerts. Top live concerts are hard to attract due to our proximity to the casino in Orillia which pays more than we can afford. We also had a problem with a design flow when we did renovations the last time — we forgot to open up the rear entrance so that transports could drive in. We were able to fix this with a grant, but now concert organizers claim the clock is too low.

Tanya and I recently worked with City Staff, who are constantly trying to attract activities and events. We’re trying. We recently made sure Wi-Fi was available. It seems the promoters have chosen Sudbury to hold the larger, higher-priced acts. Sudbury has a larger draw capability.

Ed Valenti

Memorial Gardens is a unique situation for the city. It provides a base for the Battalion, with a certain level of arena rentals that include sports groups and private citizens. Some estimates have the yearly cost of subsidizing MG at between $1 million and $1.5 million. Pandemic aside, the facilities have not been
properly utilized. This includes concerts and bands on tour.

A good part of the reason for little to no concerts at Memorial Gardens is the centre ice clock. When the Battalion moved here, the OHL allowed North Bay to
circumvent the minimum level for clocks to be above the ice surface. North Bay’s is below that minimum height. This provides an issue with sight lines, an
important aspect for concerts and other functions.

The solution to the clock’s low position above the arena floor, is to move the clock up, or to a side (for these events). Notwithstanding the engineering
required, and the difficulty to estimate for a motorized repositioning system, the city would need to determine if costs can be recovered over a number of years. If that can be achieved, then this can be an option going forward. Government funding could provide some relief and should be investigated as well.

Randall Tilander

I don’t have any specific ideas about making better use of Memorial Gardens but would be open to suggestions. 

Darryl Skinner

The Canada Community-Building Fund (formerly the Gas Tax Fund) can be used for recreation facilities, making sure we are proactive to the needs of Memorial Gardens.  

We also need to open up communications with all our recreational partners (like Sport North Bay) as far as needs and what you would like to see, to bring more sports and recreation to North Bay. The community needs an effective sports and recreation plan so we can sell what our community has to offer. We are a centralized hub and we should also be focused on that same hub for sports and recreation.  

Derek Shogren

We need a dedicated individual within the city or interested parties that can seek out opportunities not just for Memorial Gardens but any new recreation centre as well. Opportunities exist for the summer when the OHL team is not playing. Boat shows. Local trade conventions maybe a massive farmers' market would increase community use.

Deric Reichstein

I love Memorial Gardens as a city property, it is an extremely valuable asset and is no doubt under-utilized.  I'd like to improve/develop the area around the arena, but have no plans of my own to improve the utilization of the building already present. I am extremely in favour of it though and would be open to hearing ideas that could improve our use of this space.

Eric Morgan

There should be a push to utilize this facility far more than it is now. We need to engage with local user groups to see what would be needed to have
them use it more. It does sit empty for far too long throughout the year.

Dave Mendicino

We are fortunate to have The Nipissing University Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams along with the North Bay Battalion playing out of the Gardens. Ice utilization is currently at 90%. It’s an excellent venue for concerts and conventions. Gymnastics, Arts and Culture events are all a possibility.

Justine Mallah

Memorial Gardens is a wonderful facility! I would love to see more large-scale concerts take place at Memorial Gardens for the citizens of North Bay that attract
people from surrounding areas as well. Larger-scale events and festivals during the colder months would also be an opportunity to utilize the Gardens. Engaging other types of large-scale sports clubs would be worthwhile, such as wrestling, basketball, and lacrosse. In the past, North Bay hosted the World Ringette Championships and Pinty’s Curling with great success. 

Depending on the scale, Memorial Gardens may also be a suitable location to host cheerleading, figure skating, and gymnastics competitions. Thinking beyond the ice, we can look at ways to utilize the facility in ways that think outside the box. Advertising Memorial Gardens as an ideal location for trade shows and other larger-scale corporate events would help to utilize the space during the weekdays. 

In regards to physical accessibility, I think it’s important to engage with the leading agencies in this area to identify how to further increase accessibility. 

In regards to financial accessibility, it would be great to offer certain days where Battalion Games are "pay what you can." However, I would like to review the
agreement between the Battalion and the City of North Bay to see if this is a possibility.

Jamie Lowery

This is difficult to propose since the community has little information about the contractual arrangements negotiated with the owner of the Battalion. In an ideal situation, this facility would be a hub of activity. Clustering other sport and tourism amenities and strengthening the relationship with the YMCA would also be steps to enhance the utilization.  Purchasing court flooring suitable for basketball, volleyball and pickleball (to name a few) and improving the air conditioning would make Memorial an ideal space for leagues and tournaments.   

Mark King

The underuse of the gardens is a difficult nut to crack as you know the contact with the Battalion created this problem. There was never full understanding by council and over the years this has continued. The only way to solve this problem is to renegotiate the contact with language to the
city’s advantage.

Scott Kile

When I attend any function at Memorial Gardens, and in spite of the cost of the overruns when renovated, I can't help but think what a wonderful building. We are lucky to have it.  I too am puzzled as to why Memorial Gardens is not utilized more. The City of North Bay hired staff to deal with booking events at the Gardens. To date, I have not seen it. The days of hosting events like the circus, trade shows, concerts, Oktoberfest, etc. need to return.

There was a modification to the renovation of the Gardens to allow for the stands to be raised to allow bigger vehicles to access the ice pad. This is not utilized. It is imperative to bring back events to the Gardens. The Battalion contract has some bearing as to why certain events are not financially feasible to host at the Gardens. I know this from my days of operating the North Bay Midget Trappers. I do not blame the Battalion for this as this was the contract the City of North Bay afforded them.

I would like to see the City of North Bay go after larger events so as to not interfere with events hosted at the Capitol Centre. This falls under the importance of working with community partners. 

Sara Inch

I am told the centre ice clock is an issue for booking events because it blocks the view of the stage. I would say we pay to address this issue so that we can book music there and in doing so will generate more revenue for the arena ( it currently does not pay for itself and is carried by the city taxpayers). 

Also, I am told that the Battalion monopolizes the arena, thus if other arenas are built, then possibly that hockey group could get ice time elsewhere but am unaware of the contract's details and whether they can be changed.

Maggie Horsfield

Memorial Gardens should be a central community hub that is open to the public even outside of regular sporting events from those looking for a central location in the city to walk and exercise, hold meetings, events, and open skates. 

I would increase community use and access to the facility by listening to those who have ideas and plans that could generate revenue, bring in more people and outside groups. Being a “Hockey Town” has its perks but we need to diversify the sporting activities in our community to attract wider audiences and more

As city councillors, we are the advocates, representatives and decision-makers, but we cannot do that without listening to the ideas, concerns and challenges our community faces. If there are barriers and challenges to accessing Memorial Gardens, why, and what can we be doing differently to create opportunity, be
accessible and change the way that things have always been done.  

Peter Gregory

I think this facility needs to be open more to the citizens of North Bay, either through concerts, special events or open ice rental time.

Gary Gardiner

I am hopeful that some minor concessions may be possible with the Battalion Hockey Club. There is a contract in place that governs rental, food concessions, advertising, staffing, etc. However, I think that there could be some mutually beneficial amendments that could increase use and revenues for both the hockey club and event organizers. The club has proven in the past that they are willing to listen and has been very understanding.

Sheldon Forgette

Memorial Gardens is a great community asset which, I think, the city should try and "not" recover as much money from for its use. What I mean by that is, Let's let concert promoters bring shows here without trying to empty their pockets. The city needs to develop a strong relationship with event promoters that can bring concerts and shows here. We have a digital blueprint of the facility that should be shared with every event promoter in North America.

Ralph Celentano

In 2017, I attended a service club conference in the Nation's Capital being a part of CANADA 150. With the corporation of the City of North Bay celebrating
our 100th anniversary in 2025, perhaps service clubs or sports organizations can apply to their provincial and national tournaments and special events/meetings or conferences that may require a bid or Host committee approach starting today coordinating with Tourism North Bay.  

For example, does the Ontario Soccer Association move its in-person Annual General Meeting outside of the GTHA or Ottawa?  Rent the Memorial Gardens
for meeting space, and fill the hotels and restaurants.  

Locally, I was a committee member of the Mayor's Gala (Mayor Jack Burrows) in 2000 which was deemed a success plus the fundraising and auction proceeds went towards the construction of our new hospital.  We were awarded a Hospital Association Philanthropy Award for the North Bay in a Box project. Perhaps the community can create partnerships to host an event for the betterment of our "quality of life" activities. 

If ice time booking/utilization is close to the maximum through the season, focus on the facility without ice (late spring/summer) like weatherproofing a provincial pickleball tournament using our new outdoor and indoor facilities.

Richard Cadotte

Yes, it's under-utilized and yet they wish to build another on swamp land so taxpayers pay more for something they would never use. Let's deal with housing first.

Francine Boulay

Not at the present time. But agree that Memorial Gardens should be much more utilized.

Mac Bain

I concur the Gardens is an excellent building and an essential asset within the City. Unfortunately, current contracts make it difficult for some organizations and groups to rent the Gardens. I know the Shrine Club wanted to rent it for a Ceremonial. The staff tried everything to help, but the club could not make the revenue model work.

In conversations with parents and nephews over the years, I remember how thrilling it was for a child when they got to play their first game at the Gardens. So, I would suggest we make it work for a kid to play a game in the grand old barn every year.

Also, pickleball and soccer should work in the Gardens when the ice is not in.