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Opinion: New twin pad arena must move forward

Sporting events at Omischl have had to deal with no change rooms since the facility opened, putting a strain on teams coming into the City for tournaments
20190115 Omischl Sports Complex winter turl
The Omischl Sports Complex. Jeff Turl/BayToday.

I am writing this as Chair of Sport North Bay to encourage North Bay City Council to move forward during their current deliberations of the budget, with the development of the Community Centre, despite some negative comments that a few vocal citizens have posted recently on social media!

This project has been underway for over a decade.

I believe the hockey leagues began requesting increased facilities in the early or mid-1990s, if not before, and I believe it was in early in 2009 that there was a community meeting that eventually led to the MURF committee being formed.  Our ‘capacity needs’ have been scrutinized at least twice, by an independent outside consultant, indicating we need a fifth ice pad! We know that the roof structure of the West Ferris, Sam Jacks arena, is in dire shape. We have also been told that the double pads at Pete Palangio have a life expectancy of less than 10 years.

We need to act now!

Many teams have had to travel to arenas outside of our area in order to practice and compete…putting the players and their drivers in extra danger on our wintery roads!

Sporting events at Omischl have had to deal with no change rooms since the facility opened, putting a strain on teams coming into the City for tournaments.

Several individuals have lamented the lack of courts in the design, but I think it is realistic to understand that one or both ice pads can be converted to courts for different sports reasonably easily! We have seen basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis, badminton, pickleball, and soccer all accommodated in other arenas, so if the desire is here, we can do it!

When the aging Pete Palangio ice pads need to be addressed and replaced, [and we would suggest such planning should begin now!] we would hope that a new build would include one or more dedicated indoor courts for sports other than hockey.

With every delay in moving forward, the costs increase, encouraging the nay-sayers to become more vocal. Are we going to delay until we need four new ice pads? If so, we may end up forcing hockey and other ice users have to move out of town to practice and compete…or even worse, give up their activities all together!

Sport tourism is one of North Bay’s big drawing cards, and if we do not have the facilities, Sport Tourism will not flourish!

On behalf of the Sport North Bay Board, I encourage you to put the Community Complex on this year's active budget, send out tenders for construction and get the construction started as soon as physically feasible! The time is now! As soon as we are over the main restrictions of Covid-19, we want to be able to get our citizens as active as possible to maintain physical and mental health and hence give our caregivers a slight breather.

Looking forward to hearing in the up-coming weeks that the Community Complex is proceeding and will become a reality in the near future!

Heather Chambers, 

North Bay.

Editor's note: Sault Ste. Marie is going through an almost identical process. We've added its story below to provide context.

See also: Fourth option: could City Council bite on a McMeeken lite?