Directors regret Civic Arena decision

Similar to cracks in ice, fractures are developing over a proposed new arena in Greater Vernon

Similar to cracks in ice, fractures are developing over a proposed new arena in Greater Vernon.

Directors Bob Fleming and Mike Macnabb used the Regional District of North Okanagan meeting Wednesday to reverse their positions on a previous decision to hold a referendum to fund a replacement ice sheet and decommission Civic Arena as an ice facility.

“I am suffering from voter regret,” said Fleming of the motion approved at the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee March 11. “It (motion) includes things that are premature and inappropriate.”

Fleming suggests the motion could be interpreted to cover the cost of demolishing Civic.

In speaking to the board, Macnabb stated that the March 11 motion did not include those costs.

“When we go to referendum, we have to tell the public what it costs,” he said, adding that he’s also not convinced that Civic needs to be abandoned as an ice sheet.

“It’s by no means on its last legs.”

An engineering assessment was recently conducted of the 1938 Civic Arena, plus a 1979 renovation. The report suggests it would cost $1.5 million to replace the slab surface, which is at risk from a deteriorating brine (refrigeration) system.

The engineering report also says an immediate $100,000 in life and safety upgrades would be needed if Civic remains open while short-term upgrades of $5.6 million would be needed in two to five years.

Fleming says spending $1.6 million on a new slab and safety concerns at Civic may be more cost-effective than $5 million on a new arena.

“I didn’t realize we were writing off Civic when we voted for this (March 11),” he said.

That brought a quick response from director Juliette Cunningham, who is GVAC chairperson.

“I’m surprised you’re surprised because we had this discussion at GVAC,” she said.

Cunningham insists that the exact price of a new arena will be determined before there is a final move to go to referendum.

“When you look at the costs involved in Band-Aids at Civic, they’re significant. After 10 years, you probably still would have to look at replacing it,” she said.

Director Doug Dirk pointed out that Civic runs a $160,000 annual operating deficit and moving towards a referendum doesn’t mean a new facility will actually be constructed.

“If people don’t approve twinning Kal Tire Place or Priest Valley Arena, Civic will be looked at and the upgrades will go ahead,” he said.

Fleming and Macnabb were referred to as obstructionist by director Mary-Jo O’Keefe, who is convinced Civic Arena will not be usable.

“We don’t want the same sort of failure as occurred in Armstrong when they didn’t respond fast enough to an aging facility,” she said.

Fleming continued to defend his case.

“Information is what we’re looking for and we’re not trying to be obstructionist,” he said.