The original $18-million proposal was downgraded to include a more modest rink structure with less seating (approximately 500) and at a cost of $9.5 million. The rink proposal looks attractive and the tie-in with Long Pond, the Birthplace of Hockey, and King’s-Edgehill has some merit.
On the other hand, the location is off the beaten path, which is not so great as to accessibility and poses traffic concerns for the College Road residents.
It’s estimated that $1 million dollars will be needed for street upgrading work and that would still leave only one way in and out to access the facility. In addition, the site for the facility requires the purchase of land at a cost of $250,000. Further, it is estimated that the arena will be sustainable and will not require operational and maintenance costs to be supplemented by the municipal units.
Whether this proposal has the support of the majority of the people in the town and county is not clear but there are many who oppose the location. In the event this proposal doesn't get the required funding, nor proves to be sustainable without municipal help, a second alternative is needed. Plan B involves keeping and improving what we have and giving consideration to putting our money into upgrading the Hants Exhibition Arena.
The plan has to take in the interests of a number of groups including the Windsor Agricultural Society, the two municipal councils, the user groups of the arena and most importantly, the taxpayers. Another group, the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society, who have been strangely quiet on the issue, should get involved.
In discussions with David Coombes, the manager of the Hants County Exhibition for their continuing involvement, the plan has to address three major issues.
1. A horse building structure would be needed to house the horse events during the exhibition if they were to give up the arena to accommodate early use by hockey users. It could be a bubble-type mega-dome structure located over in the area where the motor sports events are presently hosted. No concrete floor is needed and the present portable stands that they have could be used.
2. The two barns, including the new Mary Henry barn built two years ago, would probably have to be relocated to the new mega-dome area. In that case, it would provide extra space for expansion to the existing arena if needed and feasible, or additional parking. The cost would be between $1 million and $1.5 million. This would solve the argument of getting on the ice earlier for the user groups if the agricultural society has a place to do their horse show events during the present exhibition times.
3. The Windsor Agricultural Society would consider handing over the present arena to a proposed town and municipality arena group who would look after the renovations and improvements and operate the facility year-round with free rent for the land space.
Many feel that $5 million to $6 million pumped into the current arena to improve the infrastructure, create a heated viewing area for spectators, change the seats to include some heated sections, add a heated lobby to promote Windsor’s Birthplace of Hockey, upgrade the canteen and dressing rooms, washrooms and the general ambiance of the interior of the arena, would go a long way.
If the renovation work was feasible, there would still be seating for 1,200 to 1,500 people, which is more in keeping with the needs for the junior hockey team and other tournament or hockey events. The agricultural society would have nothing to do with the arena except ownership of the land it is on and they may want to rent it for occasional seasonal use.
Both the Town of Windsor and the Municipality of West Hants should take responsibility of operational and maintenance costs of the arena building supported by rental income from the user groups and through recreational subsidies as they do with other recreational facilities.
To my knowledge, there are no rinks in Nova Scotia or Atlantic Canada that are entirely sustainable on their own. Both the Town of Windsor and Municipality of West Hants should be contributing annually with their fair share based on usage, just as they do for other recreation facilities.
I think for a little less or a similar amount of money than proposed for the new arena on College Road, we can satisfy everyone’s needs for a better arena facility and have a state-of the-art facility in the right location.
Of course this means the various parties (both councils and the agricultural society) would have to come together and decide on what’s best for the majority of the people and satisfies all parties in the long run. Maybe this should be considered an election issue and part of a plebiscite call this coming fall.
Before we go forward with an alternative proposal, we need some research done. We need the development of a plan for rehabilitation of the Hants Exhibition Arena and cost information before an intelligent decision can be made. It would also be key to apply for funding assistance from the province or the feds and to get our local MLA and MP on board.
Plan B makes good sense and provides something for everyone and particularly, gives something back to the agricultural society for all the years of free rent they have given towards the operation of the arena over the past 50 to 60 years. It also makes best use of what we already have and the location is superior.
Whether we can get the two councils to agree to work together with the agricultural society on this alternative remains to be seen but certainly needs to be considered.
In the words of Spock, “the needs of many should outweigh the needs of a few.”