North Okanagan lacrosse officials feel disenfranchised following Greater Vernon Recreation’s decision to leave the ice in Kal Tire Place North for five years.
When discussions surrounding the new arena began, North Okanagan Minor Lacrosse Association president Kari Gares and Vernon Tigers general manager Duane Barr believed they had found a home for both box leagues after the Civic Arena had gone into disrepair.
“Both minor and junior lacrosse were brought into the field to discuss what we would like to see,” Gares said. “To have a facility where we could host was a big thing for us.”
Greater Vernon Recreation’s decision to leave the ice in the arena year-round came when Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy and the Training House (formerly Excel Fitness) secured tenancy for the two lease spaces in the expansion.
“The situation with the ice is kind of evolving because of the two tenants,” said Doug Ross, director of recreation services. “When we started planning this, we really didn’t know who we would end up within these two tenant places. It changed the facility in a lot of ways. Right now, we do have tentative plans to have ice in the arena during July and August.”
According to Ross, the lower lease space occupied by Pursuit of Excellence under a three-year lease is 1,820 square feet and the upper space occupied by the Training House for five years is approximately 3,350 square feet.
“Originally, when we planned it out, we thought it would be similar to our plans for the Civic Arena. It kept evolving,” Ross said. “There will be more spin-off benefits.”
While it wasn’t originally in the arena schematics, Ross said having the premiere hockey training facility will pay off by allowing serious athletes to stay, play and train in Vernon while having access to the scientific programming. Additionally, Ross said bot tenants will generate additional rentals for non-prime time ice.
Gares and Barr said they aren’t against the arena having ice and they support local hockey, but they wanted to be a part of that conversation.
“I was under the impression that we would probably move there,” Barr said. “It would just give a better atmosphere. I’m a bit disappointed that we will not be there.”
Currently, both North Okanagan Minor Lacrosse and the Vernon Tigers utilize Hassen Memorial Arena in Armstrong for practices and games, alongside Kal Tire Place and Priest Valley Arena.
However, Gares said not having access to Kal Tire Place North due to ice in the rink limits both organizations’ hosting abilities.
“We’re taking that value out of Vernon,” Gares said, noting that she heard that ice would be left in the arena when she went to the arena discuss hosting bantam lacrosse provincials.
Barr agreed and added that he believes, without access to both arenas, it limits lacrosse’s growth in the North Okanagan.
“I look at the South Okanagan, in Penticton, they have the South Okanagan Hockey School, it takes up all the floor time. I really don’t want to see that happen here,” Barr said.
Both organizations have access to Kal Tire Place and Priest Valley Arena. Ross said those services would continue to be available.
“Certainly we understand lacrosse’s position and are talking to them about events in the future and how we might accommodate them,” Ross said.
With Civic Arena no longer available, Gares said lacrosse in Vernon is left without a permanent home.
“For us, this isn’t about hockey or lacrosse. Anything that gets kids out there is a big plus. We were given the impression that this arena would be our new home. That is our issue. You can’t make us believe one thing and change your mind without discussion,” Gares said.
“We have no home. That’s the point we want to make. For us, nothing changes.”