Arena shut out after funding denied

Ministry decides to deny funding to Campbell River's main arena which requires critical repairs

There’s some confusion over why an application for a provincial grant – for badly-needed arena repairs – was denied.

Brenda Leigh, regional district director for Area D (Oyster River to Ocean Grove area), said there was a mix-up with the Strathcona Regional District’s application for arena repairs and the City of Campbell River’s application for Robron Park improvements.

The regional district applied in February for a $400,000 grant from the $30 million B.C.  Community Recreation Fund, which supports local recreation projects.

The grant money was intended for Rod Brind’Amour Arena, the larger of the two ice rinks at Strathcona Gardens. The Strathcona Regional District says if repairs are not done soon, the concrete slab under the ice will fail, making it impossible to make proper ice.

The city got involved when council decided to withdraw its own application to the program for an all-weather field at Robron Park.

The city chose to shift its support to the regional district to give the arena application a greater chance at grant funding.

But the province turned down the application for the $968,000 improvement project last month despite the regional district setting aside $1.1 million in the 2012 budget to make up its share of the project costs.

Leigh met with Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong at a Vancouver Island municipalities meeting a couple of weeks ago and told Chong she heard there was confusion over the grant application.

“I was made aware at the commission that there had been a mix-up at the ministry level that resulted in our Strathcona Gardens grant application for $400,000 being overlooked,” Leigh said. “This fact had been acknowledged by Ms. Chong’s assistant. Basically, what had occurred was that in the middle of grant deliberations, the city withdrew their application for an (all-weather field), unrelated to the Strathcona Gardens application. The ministry then assumed that the SRD (Strathcona Regional District) rink grant was being withdrawn.”

But, according to ministry spokesperson Jeff Rud, the ministry did not confuse the applications, and both the regional district’s and the city’s applications were reviewed as part of the Community Recreation Program assessment process.

“The Strathcona RD application was not withdrawn, or considered withdrawn by staff, at anytime during the assessment process,” Rud wrote in an e-mail. “The program was heavily over-subscribed. There were many projects, including ones that met the program criteria, that did not get funded.”

The ministry would not comment on why the application was denied.

Coun. Andy Adams, who is the chair of the Strathcona Gardens Commission, said he was disappointed with the decision.

“When we review the list of projects that were approved around the province, the number of regions that had multiple projects approved, and the fact that nearby regions received over $1 million in grant approvals it leaves us wondering why our application wasn’t given favourable consideration,” Adams said in a letter to the ministry.

“The one project that the regional district applied for is a vitally important project to the community as the arena floor and brine lines are on the brink of failure.”

Adams said to underscore the importance of the application, neither the city nor the regional district submitted applications for any other projects.

Leigh said she asked Minister Chong to reconsider the arena application if any new grant opportunities are offered and that Rod Brind’Amour Arena be given priority.


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