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Callander’s rink improvements on ice?

Rising costs inspire municipality to re-evaluate plans for Bill Barber Arena

Prices are on the rise, so the Municipality of Callander is seeking some second thoughts before beginning improvements to the Bill Barber Arena. A meeting was held on January 23 at Callander’s community centre—right beside the rink—to hear from the people and share three possible options regarding investments into the ice.

The municipality received a grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) this past October for $372,510 to help with upgrades to the rink. However, upgrades have been planned since 2020, and council began setting aside funds for the project. In early 2022, council approved the project at a total price of $306,000.

With the provincial grant, a possible $678,510 is now available.

Specifically, the municipality wanted to upgrade the ice pad—ideally to concrete—and install new rink boards. The boards have been ordered, which cost $100,000. So, there’s money left in the pot, but when the town put out a tender to install the concrete, the lowest quote received was $750,000, quite a difference from the quote received in 2021, which is how the town came up with the $306,000 figure.

See: Bill Barber Complex receives funding for upgrades

Despite the project being approved last year, due to a shortage of material and equipment, the price increased for the job, and council postponed it to 2023. Now the town is pausing its plans, and turning to the community to see how the money should be spent.

For instance, what does the community want to get from the rink? Is there interest in using the space year-round, and finding warm-weather uses for the shaded rink area? Ball hockey? Fitness activities or private event rentals? There are options to use the facility year-round, and the town wants feedback.

Municipal staff posed three options for residents—the full upgrade, the partial upgrade, or the replacement of what’s already there.

Option one costs between $550,00 and $600,000. This option will ensure a new concrete ice pad is poured, with an estimated lifespan of 50 years. The concrete will extend beyond the boards to create a path to the Orton Room in the Community Centre, which is where people can change into their skates.

Additional refrigeration could also be installed within the concrete with this option to extend the ice season. Thick concrete creates a smoother surface, which would allow summertime usage. Pickleball or shuffleboard, anyone?

To complete option one, the town would have to dip into reserves, and it would result in a levy increase as well come tax time. As for how much, the town will have to finalize its budget before that detail is released. But if the people want this option, they will work it into the budget.

See: Callander’s working to bring tax levy to around 5 per cent

Option two rings in at $300,000. A concrete pad will be installed, which will last 10 to 15 years, staff noted. The access to the Orton room will not be improved, and no path will be built. This thinner pad cannot be refrigerated. Pickleball and shuffleboard will remain viable summer options.

The cheapest option, coming in at $100,000, is option three. No concrete in this one, the ice pad will be asphalt, as it is now. The expected lifespan is 10-15 years. The asphalt does not allow for refrigeration, and it is not well-insulated. The asphalt melts the ice faster than a concrete slab, staff noted.

Town council wants to gather opinions from residents before its next meeting in February, so members can discuss the future of the rink before finalizing the 2023 budget. Staff will post a survey to the municipal website soon, and residents can also make their thoughts known by sending an email to the town at

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering civic and diversity issues for BayToday. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
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