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Future of Civic replacement goes to voters

Voters will decide if the ice will be twinned at Kal Tire Place. - Morning Star File Photo
Voters will decide if the ice will be twinned at Kal Tire Place.
— image credit: Morning Star File Photo

The future of a new ice sheet is in the hands of Greater Vernon residents.

The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee will hold a November referendum to borrow up to $13 million for a 400-seat, NHL-sized ice sheet at the north end of Kal Tire Place.

“It’s really up to them and not us,” said Juliette Cunningham, chairperson, of the voters.

The decision was unanimous among GVAC members Wednesday to pursue a new facility to replace Civic Arena as an ice sheet.

“I understand that $13 million is a lot but it (issue) has been in the political arena a long time. To go to the public is important,” said director Jim Garlick.

Civic Arena is 77 years old and there is a concern that the major capital issues could lead to the facility suddenly not being available for ice users.

Five options were considered — a stand-alone arena, twinning Priest Valley Arena to the west or east or twinning Kal Tire Place to the north or west.

“The north one is the best choice we’ve got,” said Garlick.

The new arena would utilize the existing ice plant and the zamboni at Kal Tire Place.

It’s estimated that about $150,000 a year could be saved by operating a twin facility instead of having separate structures.

“The savings can help pay down the debt or leverage borrowing for additional features the users are asking for,” aid Doug Ross, the City of Vernon’s recreation services director.

It’s possible that a twinned Kal Tire Place could  attract sports tournaments or training camps.

“By having a facility twinned, you create opportunities,” said Ross.

Construction will displace some parking but new parking spaces are planned for along 43rd Avenue. The new ice sheet could also impact the location of the Vernon Farmers Market.

Upgrading Civic Arena was investigated, but consultants suggest it could cost $10.8 million to renovate and operate the facility for more than 10 years, and that figure could jump to $13.9 million if an NHL-sized ice sheet is installed.

“We have groups that don’t want to play at Civic because of the size of ice,” said Ross, adding that the existing size of the sheet is 180-by-80 feet while an NHL surface is 200-by-85 feet.

Civic runs an annual $171,000 deficit to operate.

Taxpayers will carry the brunt of the cost of any new arena, but director Mike Macnabb doesn’t believe they should be completely responsible.

“Is there any indication that the user groups who want all of this stuff will pony up?” he said.

Regional District of North Okanagan staff will now draft a bylaw for GVAC members to consider July 3.

Preparation for the referendum will also now get underway.

“This is a conceptual design and we will go to the next phase with a facility design we can show to the public,” said Ross.

If the ice sheet at Civic Arena is decommissioned, the City of Vernon, as the property owner, will decide what happens with the building.

“Whether it’s repurposed, that is something we will be discussing,” said Ross.

 

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