People working to keep the Rossland Arena open for ice sports got some good news at the last meeting of city council.
Councillors decided that they could support the ongoing maintenance and operations of the 70-year-old arena, including replacing the aging cooling system.
“Yes, it’s good news, because council has officially endorsed keeping ice in the building,” says Mayor Kathy Moore. “So it can continue to have all the ice sports… but then also the direction is to, for a long-term plan, is to have a gym floor eventually.
“There’s now a lot of security that’s been given to the ice users.”
The decision came during discussions on the capital budget portion of the city’s 2020-2024 financial plan and budget on Nov. 18.
After a discussion of the Recreation Task Force’s report and recommendations, Council voted to continue to provide ice in the arena while working to increase off-season usage and activities.
“The arena brings a lot of joy for its users,” says Moore. “But it also brings a lot of economic benefit for the community, there’s a lot of support for it, and now that there’s an Arena Society — that’s a very encouraging sign, because for all our community facilities like the library, Miner’s Hall, and museum, there’s always another group behind it or contributes to it or fundraises for it. “
At the meeting councillors committed — or directed staff — to consistently examine the operating and capital costs and look for alternatives to offset those costs, including grants and fundraising and potentially increased user costs. Long-term plans will be incorporated into the city’s Asset Management Plan.
The decision comes after more than a year of debate and research into the cost of the arena and the community’s support for the facility. The question became more urgent in the spring, when the arena’s cooling system broke down, throwing the whole facility’s future into doubt.
Moore says it was easier to make the decision because of the work done by volunteers and hired consultants who examined the arena’s costs and benefits.
“One of things that was a puzzle for council was, we didn’t have the facts,” she says. “There was a lot of emotion that surrounds the arena, a lot of hearsay, anecdotal evidence, but the actual facts we were thin on. Now we have more of them than we did before, and council felt they had enough facts to make a decision.”
The question before council, and what Moore says was answered by the Task Force report, was whether the facility was still meeting the needs of the community at a cost that was affordable.
“Plenty of evidence was provided on usage, health and economic benefits as well as the challenges for other regional facilities to absorb our ice users, if the arena did not provide ice,” she says.
It’s estimated that replacing the aging ice-making system will cost up to $350,000.
While some councillors were concerned with making a decision on what could be an open-ended bill for maintenance and repair, in the end a majority voted in favour of doing the necessary work, and then adding capacity to increase the arena’s use.
“The long-term goal is to move towards providing a gym floor in the off-season, understanding that further research into user-ship and cost will take place and that grants will almost certainly be necessary to make that happen,” Moore wrote later in a Facebook post. “There were comments from every councillor regarding the gym floor as being a ‘long term’ goal and recognition that there are other higher priority short-term needs for the arena, as well as for other facilities.”
Council also voted to formalize the role the Rossland Arena Society will play in maintaining the facility in the long-term “in the same way other volunteer groups work to improve and operate the Miners’ Hall, the library, and the museum”, says Moore. “It solidifies them as the ‘official’ organization associated with the facility. Our community fabric depends on these hard-working volunteers to be able to offer the myriad of arts, culture and sport opportunities for all residents and visitors.”
The Society has already raised more than $64,000 for improvements to the arena.
Moore says the issue of what the community should do about the arena is essentially settled.
“All these things look like positive developments that we can look at and say yes that’s a good viable entity to have in the community with a lot of community support and it benefits a lot of people,” she says.