Rossland’s mayor predicts ice will be back in the city’s arena next fall, despite the failure of the refrigeration system earlier this month.
“I imagine there will be,” says Mayor Kathy Moore. “I can’t say for sure, in case something catastrophic comes up when we are trying to repair that makes it cost-prohibitive, but I doubt that.
“I think there will still be ice and people playing on it.”
Moore was commenting after a leak in the arena’s brine circulation system forced the early shutdown of the ice-making system for the curling club. The main hockey arena surface had already closed for the season. There was no danger to the public from the brine leak.
The failure of the aging arena’s ice-making system does focus the debate into the facility’s future, however.
“With any old facility like the arena, it’s an ongoing conversation for sure,” says Moore. She says it’s not known what it’s going to cost taxpayers to restore the ice system.
“We haven’t assessed what it is going to cost to fix,” she says. “That’s news I don’t have to share with you just yet. There’s a whole list of things that need to be done to the arena that add up to quite a bit of money over the next 10 to 15 years to keep the facility going.”
It costs about $195,000 a year to operate the building, even when all its systems are in working order. That works out to about $68 a year for the average homeowner paying taxes.
While all those repairs don’t have to be done at once, they will impact the city’s tax rate over time. And the public has already given council its opinion on what it’s willing to pay.
Last fall the MODUS group held extensive public hearings and released a report on public attitudes towards all recreation facilities in Rossland.
The results give council few clear directions to follow.
A small majority (55 per cent) want to see the city maintain ice at the arena.
Twenty-nine per cent of those wanted to maintain the ice at the arena as it is now, estimated in the study to cost about $3 million. That would take a six per cent tax increase to service the debt for the repairs. The rest of the pro-ice majority, a group about the same size (26 per cent) were in favour of developing a multi-sport arena, including ice-season and off-season indoor sports like rock climbing and gymnastics, at a cost of about $6 million, or a 12 per cent tax increase.
While that group made the majority, a significant number of respondents to the MODUS survey (34 per cent) were in favour of having no ice, and converting the arena to an indoor, year-round recreation facility with everything from rock climbing to indoor soccer, trampolines and other activities. That proposal benefits from not requiring any borrowing at all.
Then there was the 11 per cent of Rosslanders who want to see the whole building shut down.
“Not completely surprisingly, it came out ferociously that people have their favourite thing,” says Moore. “There were no clear winners or losers in our survey.
“We are a pretty diverse community in how we want to spend our recreation tax dollars.”
Moore says the debate on how to best use the arena will now move to the newly-minted recreation commission, established to set a course for the spending priorities and policies of the city for the next few years.
“Obviously we are not going to tear that building down, but is there some other use for it that might serve more people, or do we just ramp up off-season activities?” Moore says it is one consideration the commission will investigate.
“They’ll ask what will make the arena more useful to the community, and bring a greater return on investment that we have in taxpayers dollars there.”
Meanwhile, the arena has its die-hard fans, and they’ll also be working to raise money to keep the arena doors open.
“The Rossland Arena Society is still committed to our cause of improving the viability of the arena, fundraising and increasing four-season usage,” says Ona Stanton, a member of the group. “We are going to be holding our first AGM soon and looking to recruit more members to help with our mandate.
“The turnout at the inaugural senior Rossland Warriors game sparked excitement in many locals and brought back memories, stories and laughter that we hope will overflow into future seasons.”