Putting off arena upgrades not an option, manager says

The regional district has budgeted for the first phase of the arena project to begin this year

The Strathcona Regional District wants to move forward with plans to repair Rod Brind’Amour Arena despite failing to secure a key government grant this year.

The regional district has budgeted for the first phase of the arena project to begin this year, which includes issuing a Request for Proposals for further work in 2013.

The total budget is estimated at $1.1 million with $111,000 to be spent in 2012 for detailed design and tendering and in 2013, $64,000 is budgeted for project management with  $904,200 is set aside for the arena floor and dasher board system.

Brian Reardon, the regional district’s chief administrative officer, recommended the Strathcona Gardens Commission get moving on the project.

“By issuing the RFP (Request for Proposals) this month, we would be able to confirm timelines and project costs prior to next year’s budget planning process,” he said in a letter to the commission. “In addition, it would be important to confirm the estimated timelines to complete the project, so that preparations could be identified and communicated to the user groups.”

Reardon said after talking with other municipalities that have done similar arena upgrades, the regional district would like to have the same company both design and build the improvements. The upgrades, which include replacing the slab floor, boards and brine lines, are necessary to prevent further deterioration of the 40-year-old rink. Making things difficult is the lack of funding at the regional district’s disposal.

“Potential funding sources for projects of this magnitude are limited and the timing for starting the upgrade project becomes critical to the operation of the facility,” said Josie Rohne, Strathcona Gardens facility manager. “Although we have searched out sponsorship it is more likely that funding sources will have to include government grants in order to secure funding elsewhere.”

The regional district, with the backing of the city, did apply in February for a $400,000 grant from the $30 million B.C. Community Recreation Fund, aimed at supporting community recreation projects.

But the application was denied much to both parties’ disappointment.

“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,” Coun. Andy Adams and chair of the Strathcona Gardens Commission wrote in a letter to the ministry in May. “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.”

If the repairs are not done soon, the concrete slab under the ice will fail, making it impossible to make proper ice. There is already a large crack running across the floor that has been filled with deteriorated material.

Rohne said putting off the improvements is not an option.

“Not proceeding with this project has the potential of loss of revenues and employment for many of our staff,” Rohne said. “Not to say the implications of the ice cancellations to both minor hockey groups and adult hockey. Our Jr. B hockey club (Campbell River Storm) would be affected and that would also have an effect on the Island Jr. (VIJHL) as a whole.”