With more options coming out of last week’s city council meeting, the special committee looking at the fate of the West Ferris arena has significantly narrowed their options since Wednesday morning.
Coun. Mark King, chair of community services and head of the committee said that after their meeting, they ruled out the possibility of rehabilitating the West Ferris arena to accommodate two ice pads, as well as the new plot of land, offered unsolicited to the city last Tuesday.
“We also discussed the summary of the open house public meeting that took place,” King added, noting the input from the public is being taken into their decisions. “We went back over the site selection criteria just to make sure people were fully aware of what we were dealing with.”
He said following a presentation by senior financial staff on methods to finance the new arena, it was decided that both the current location of the West Ferris arena, as well as the land located in the Pinewood Park Drive area across from the former Moe Z On Inn strip club were not viable.
“We looked at the West Ferris arena and somewhere in the name of $10 million is needed to rebuild the arena, with all the issues, roof, and underpinning of foundation—not to mention the rink is undersized which limits the use of that arena,” King said. “The committee has decided that the option of rebuilding there is not a viable option. We also looked at the Pinewood Park land offer that council received last week and it did not meet the criteria based on some $4 million in sewer and water connections needed, while it’s also at the extreme south end of the city.”
King said the committee has narrowed it down to two locations, the Steve Omischl Sports Complex, and Thomson Park (behind Memorial Gardens).
“The committee has agreed to get staff to work on some sort of estimate for a double pad strictly because of economics for our next meeting on October 25,” King said. “The geotechnical wasn’t complete but will be done for the October 25 meeting. We’re finding a direction that’s narrowing down the choice in site and we just need to get to the geotechnical, get a financial plan, and see if there is an operational advantage if it can come close to paying for itself.”
He mentioned there were several options to fund the new arena—but these avenues were just preliminary discussions. Options discussed include increased debt for the city, increase in property taxes, capital reserves, leveraging senior levels of government, or a ‘hotel tax’ that would see hospitality businesses that benefit from sports tourism help contribute to the funding of the arena.
King also wanted to be clear that the new arena is not in financial competition with Casselholme, noting both are completely different projects with different processes...Casselholme involving other municipalities.
“We’ve watched this rhetoric in the press that somehow we’re placing the arena ahead of the long-term care,” King said clearly. “All of us want the public to recognize that Casselholme is separate from the arena and we worked hard for it not to affect the budget over the next two to three years. We’re not prepared to jeopardize the Casselholme build and of course, the CAO has made it clear we do have a business plan and it won’t affect the capital plan. The other thing the committee was adamant about is we have to recognize there is a responsibility on the part of the province. They need to acknowledge they are responsible for the long-term care of people.”