Advocates shoot for referendum awareness

There’s less than a month before Greater Vernon residents head to the polls on a new arena, and proponents are spreading the word

There’s less than a month before Greater Vernon residents head to the polls on a new arena, and proponents are spreading the word.

An advocacy group representing users of the proposed twinning of Kal Tire Place has been formed and the goal is to create awareness.

“We are contacting all of the user groups and we will have information booths set up,” said Cameron Grant, spokesperson and father of two minor hockey players.

“The big thing is not to convince people how to vote but to encourage the yes people to get out and vote. It won’t be a slam dunk and if you don’t get out and vote, it may not pass.”

On Nov. 28, Greater Vernon residents will be asked to borrow $13.25 million for a twin sheet. The City of Vernon will also contribute an additional $812,385 from reserves.

“It’s a replacement rink for Civic Arena, not a new rink,” said Grant.

The 1938 Civic Arena hosts about 40 per cent of ice sports in the community, but there are considerable infrastructure issues with the facility.

“The ice plant could go. Any number of things could render that facility useless and it’s a money pit,” said Grant.

The cost for the required renovations to keep the Civic Arena functional for five years is $5.6 million, according to the City of Vernon. To keep it operational for 10 years with the current sheet of ice is about $10.78 million. To upgrade the arena to include a regulation-size sheet of ice would require $13.88 million.

Annual operating costs for the Civic Arena in 2016 are budgeted for $196,706.

“The economic situation with Civic is bad. Either way you are going to pay for ice. Do you pay for an old, dilapidated one or a new one?” said Grant.

If Civic is suddenly unable to be used, Grant says that will impact thousands of children in a variety of sports, including hockey, lacrosse and figure skating.

“Parents don’t want their kids to stop playing.”

Beyond keeping youth active, Grant believes a  new arena with a 200-foot-by-85-foot ice sheet and 400 seats will allow Vernon to host tournaments, trade shows and other events.

“It opens up opportunities,” he said, adding that summer training camps could create a new revenue source.

Grant also says that recreational amenities attract new residents of all ages to the community and help retain families.

“They contribute to our quality of life.”

Some residents are concerned about increasing the tax burden by constructing a new arena, and Grant says he understands those reservations.

“I’m also responsible for all of those payments too and it will provide economic opportunities,” he said.

For a home assessed at $350,000, the cost to twin Kal Tire Place will be $24 a year for 20 years.

Grant is confident that there is broad support for the referendum.

“Please get out and vote yes and encourage all who are in favor of this rink to get out and vote yes.”