EDITORIAL: New arena generates debate

It’s a whirlwind turnaround but Greater Vernon residents are heading to the polls.

It’s a whirlwind turnaround but Greater Vernon residents are heading to the polls.

The Regional District of North Okanagan announced Wednesday that a referendum will be held Nov. 28 to borrow $13.25 million for a new arena. The tight timeline came after the provincial government finally signed off on the process after months of unnecessary delays.

What this means is that in about a month, voters in Vernon, Coldstream and the two electoral areas must decide if they are willing to bump up their taxes for twinning of Kal Tire Place.

The obstacle is significant given that the region’s economy still continues to struggle and many people are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Of course, there is also a concern about the growing burden on taxpayers, whether it’s the recently opened athletics park or the prospect of a new art gallery and a multi-million-dollar master water plan.

However, the case can also be made that there is a need for twinning Kal Tire Place as the existing ice plant at Civic Arena is on its last legs and investing money in a building constructed in the 1930s doesn’t make sense. Minor hockey still remains very popular as does ice sports at all ages, so the demand is there. A twinned facility could also host tournaments and other events, bolstering the local economy.

The challenge now is for the regional district and its community partners to properly educate the public on the issue, both the benefits of a new facility and the long-term financial obligations. This could be an uphill battle not only because of the short time period before the referendum but also the reluctance of some residents to add to their tax load.

The next month will be active as information is provided and residents are urged to take sides. Keep yourself informed and make sure you have your say.