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EDITORIAL: Windsor's arena project far cry from shrine to hockey


When it comes to building a new arena, the Town of Windsor has lost sight of the goal.

For several years, the community has been teased with the notion that a state-of-the-art facility — one that would draw people from all over the world — would be built in our neck of the woods.

The project was billed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — something that would pay homage to the very sport that Windsor claims started here. It was meant to be a mecca for hockey enthusiasts. It was going to serve as an economic driver that would breathe new life into a region struggling with an aging population and aging infrastructure.

It was going to be a multi-purpose complex, one that featured a two-pad ice surface and a hockey heritage museum, plus a walking track, indoor soccer field, and weight training centre. It was a lofty goal, but one that certainly would have put us on the map.

That vision was gradually pared down as concerns about location and financing surfaced. Windsor and West Hants councils became more involved once the committee behind the initial plan realized the facility required municipal backing in order to access much-needed provincial and federal funding.

It appeared, at first, that the councils would work together to realize the dream.

We shouldn't have gotten our hopes up.

After expressing concerns over location, size and scope of the project, financing, and long-term management, West Hants councillors stepped away from the project, save for the $1 million that the municipality pledged to provide, to allow Windsor to take the reins.

Windsor council has effectively watered down the vision to the point that we're left with a mere rink, with a walking track if financing allows.

Windsor council promised public input would be sought, that the people would have a say. Instead, it’s forging ahead with their own vision. They've selected the location for the new arena — without any public consultation (save for a few private stakeholder meetings).

It's a desperate attempt to save a project that will no longer be the draw that the town wanted — and, in fact, needed. It will no longer be a huge tourist destination.

What's left is the shell of a dream that's going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

A new arena usually warrants celebrations. Instead, this one has incited heated arguments, finger-pointing and allegations of wrongdoing.

Windsor council is now imploring the public to get behind the modified plan. It's a hard request to accommodate considering the new 'vision' pales in comparison to what we wanted, anticipated, and hoped for.

The area needs an arena, but more importantly, it needs a multi-purpose facility that will draw people here. Settling for a hastily put-together project that is going to cost millions and will require extensive road upgrades won't do that.

We must demand better from our elected officials and hold them accountable. Don't let the dream of a world-class facility die because of an eagerness to get shovels in the ground.

The time to be vocal is now. The project can still be saved if the willpower is there. If not, we will wind up with a very expensive rink located off the beaten path and generations will be left wondering what could have been.

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