People concerned about the future of the Rossland arena have formally created a society to push for the facility’s needs.
About 25 people showed up last week to choose the first board of directors at the Rossland Arena Society’s first annual general meeting.
And their message: the arena is a lot more important than people think.
“There’s been a lot of misconceptions about the revenue it generates, about its viability… what this arena is, and what it’s costing taxpayers,” said Darin Recchi, a member of the founding board. “And there’s a cost that’s not being considered: the cost of not having it.”
Recchi opened the meeting with a discussion of the society’s history, starting as an arena task force, and its growth into a society last year.
The newly-formed society has its work cut out for it.
The 80-year-old Rossland Arena recently suffered a breakdown in its ice-making system for the curling rink, and taxpayers face a serious bill to keep the arena operating.
So far city council’s approved a band-aid solution to keep the facility open for next year, but a more permanent solution is being debated.
But if that more expensive solution is to be approved, the arena needs supporters pushing for it, said Recchi. One argument, he says, is the contribution the arena makes to the region as a whole.
“The perception is that Rossland is a minority of the ice that we need. In actual reality we’re 68 per cent of the actual ice that’s needed for Greater Trail hockey,” he said. “The region itself has a predicament if this ice surface goes away.”
Another consequence of having no arena is the financial impact on families having to go to Trail to play sports. The group heard that through the Trail Recreation Program, out-of-town users of facilities can pay an extra $500 per child to play hockey in that city’s facilities.
Recchi also pointed out that the economic contribution of the Rossland Arena is poorly understood as well.
“You talk to David Ferraro [from Ferraro Foods] he can talk to you about the trends, how busy he is on a tournament weekend,” he said. “You talk to the Flying Steamshovel [a local bar] or any of the restaurant owners, they can see it. But actually gauging that, if you are coming into a battle of gauging, where people say ‘show us the actual data,’ is difficult.”
But Recchi said estimates show every adult sports tournament at the arena brings about $45,000 to the city, and every children’s hockey event about $30,000. In all, visitors coming to Rossland to use the arena generate $270,000 a year in economic activity.
But while other municipal facilities in Rossland have citizens groups backing them — the Miners Hall and library are two examples — there’s been no similar group for the arena. And with a community facilities review underway, Recchi said it was important a group collect data on the subject and speak for the arena.
The society could also act as a fundraising agent, the attendees heard. There are ideas like starting a clothing line based on the arena, running the concession stand, and applying for grants from various levels of government and corporate sponsors.
And attendees did stand up for the arena. The group voted in a full slate for a board of directors: Ona Stanton, president; Michael Amann, vice-president; Hather Simm, secretary; Marie Conradie, treasurer. Seven directors-at-large were also chosen from the crowd.
Newly minted president Stanton said the society’s top jobs will be building membership, fundraising, and gathering data for city council and the recreation commission to consider when deciding on the facility’s viability.