However, she remains hopeful the project can proceed.
“Yes, it has divided the community and they’re not in a position to get in the middle of that,” Allen said in an interview. “They’re a huge corporation, international, they have responsibility to their students and parents and I absolutely support what they have done.”
Windsor council hasn’t met officially since KES sent their letter saying they’re withdrawing support.
Allen said she was happy that West Hants has agreed to form a joint municipal corporation to tackle the arena issue. Windsor council previously agreed to form a corporation with West Hants.
“We’re moving forward. We don’t know the full impact of what the (KES) letter actually does for the project,” she said. “The federal government has come back saying they want an economic development study done because of the submission the agricultural society has put in.”
“After three years of work, all of a sudden (the federal government) wants an economic development study,” Allen said.
“So that has put another wrench in the project, which is perhaps another two-month delay,” she said.
Allen said the study would determine which is the best site from an economic development point of view.
“All of a sudden we have to have a study on this, and I don’t get that, but I guess that’s how politics go. It’s too bad,” she said.
When asked whether it makes sense to ensure millions of dollars of taxpayer’s dollars are spent wisely, Allen agreed.
“Absolutely. And as an elected official I wouldn’t do it any other way,” she said.
When asked if council would consider re-negotiating its ice contract with the Hants Exhibition Arena, Allen said it hasn’t been discussed with council, but couldn’t imagine that date changing.
“Council was out of the rink business, if I understand that correctly from the former motion,” she said. “This new facility is not a rink, it’s a hockey heritage centre that happens to have a rink.”
But what if the new hockey heritage centre, which includes a rink, isn’t built in time for the 2018/19 ice season?
“It’s happened before. People looking for ice time were diverted to Sackville, Bedford, Kentville, wherever. People have made arrangements. It’s not a good option but it certainly is out there,” she said.
Windsor needs the 'foot traffic'
Allen said she did look at the Windsor Agricultural Society’s proposal for a heritage arena and said that the presentation wasn’t conclusive, with many outstanding questions.
“The location concerns me greatly. I don’t think there’s a better place to put this other than the historical hockey location, Long Pong, King’s-Edgehill, Haliburton House,” she said. “One of the top issues during the last campaign was to revitalize downtown Windsor and I can tell you for decades I’ve heard, ‘you need to bring people downtown.’ This is it. This is an economic generator because it would draw people here.”
Allen said if the heritage arena is built at the Hants County Exhibition grounds, it won’t benefit Windsor’s downtown core.
“If (this) facility is once again on a fringe development area, that’s status quo, it doesn’t change a thing for the downtown,” she said. “It’s worse, as a matter of fact, because it’ll take the Hockey Heritage Museum with them. If they do that, then we don’t even have people coming to see the museum downtown.”
The Hants County Exhibition Grounds is located within the Town of Windsor limits.
The agricultural society’s proposal is to build a new heritage arena and potentially incorporate existing buildings on their property for $9 million, split between the three levels of government – about $3 million less than the Long Pond proposal.
“It’s bigger than saving money, which I don’t necessarily believe by the way. It’s a much bigger picture,” Allen said. “We need that foot traffic through downtown, we have a trail that could bring people right up through a nice little walk, by the Haliburton property. This means so much to the town. The location of that facility has to be downtown.”
She said if everyone can come together, King's-Edgehill School may want to partner on the project again.
Allen said the necessary infrastructure upgrades, if the facility is built at Long Pond, wouldn’t become a major burden on the town.
“We do have underground infrastructure in place, it has to be expanded some, but it doesn’t have to be replaced,” she said. “King’s-Edgehill have offered two entrances, and there will be cost to upgrading those two roads. College Road, for the Town of Windsor has been on the list for upgrades for a long time. There is a plan in place for that, but that has nothing to do with this facility, so that cost is not associated with this.”
A community divided
Allen acknowledged that the project has become a heated debate in the community, saying “it’s brought a dark cloud” over the town.
“We haven’t had a project this large in decades. We haven’t had anything great happen in this community in a long time. It’s been extremely difficult to move forward on something like this when the community is divided.”
Allen said she’s trying to look 50 years ahead.
“As elected officials, we are trying to do the best for our community, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” she said. “When you have others that think differently, who aren’t elected, then it really throws a wrench in the process.”
KES remains out
Joe Seagram, headmaster of King’s-Edgehill School, confirmed during an interview that their withdrawal of support includes the $1 million contribution towards the project.
Seagram also said the withdrawal includes use of KES access roads, grounds and property, at least for the time being.
“We’re withdrawing any kind of support at this point in time,” Seagram said. “We’re just stepping away. We don’t want anyone to ever again misconstrue this as a King’s-Edgehill School project... It is a community based project.”
Seagram said until a feasibility study is done and the community decides where the heritage centre should be, he couldn’t speculate if they school would re-join the initiative.
“I don’t know what the town and municipality will decide to do, but I suspect that once there is a vision, a project, one in which the businesses of this community and the citizens can galvanize, then of course we’ll do what we can,” he added.
Seagram said he hasn’t seen the Windsor Agricultural Society proposal, but said if it would only require funding from the three levels of government, a direct financial contribution from KES wouldn’t be needed.
“We would be tenants, just like minor hockey or Avon View (High School) or any other organization,” he said. “It would be our home and I’m sure it would be gorgeous, just like the Brooklyn arena is gorgeous.”
Seagram said KES wouldn’t consider building its own arena exclusively for its students if another arena is built in town.