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UPDATE - West Hants could revive arena dreams with ‘Plan B’ project at Hants County Exhibition grounds

An artistic rendering of a proposed arena project at the Hants County Exhibition grounds that West Hants council will vote whether or not to approve on Aug. 21
An artistic rendering of a proposed arena project at the Hants County Exhibition grounds that West Hants council will vote whether or not to approve on Aug. 21 - Contributed

WINDSOR, N.S. - Citing a desire to not allow another arena dream die, West Hants warden Abraham Zebian said his council will consider a ‘Plan B’ option at the Hants County Exhibition grounds following Windsor’s failed attempt to build an arena near Long Pond.

A special meeting of council will be held on Aug. 21 in Sanford Council Chambers at 6 p.m., where councillors will decide whether or not to move ahead with a new arena proposal in order to secure provincial and federal funds.

“I think it’s widely known that this has been an ongoing conversation for the last 20 years, on and off, it’s been pitched so many different times, only to have it fall apart,” Zebian said. “When the town walked away from the Long Pond proposal, that’s another project that’s fallen through.”

Zebian said he was encouraged when he was told by Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison that the funds were still available if a new project was submitted in time.

“We pursued that to deliver a project for the area,” he said. “I want to create something we can be proud of and actually succeed at.”

“It’s going to be a truly community-based project,” he said. “It’ll have many (amenities) that many users will use, and there will be room for growth. I see only benefits.”

He said they started considering a project of their own approximately a week ago, after Windsor abandoned their planned arena.

Zebian said he’s already written a letter to Windsor Council, hoping they’ll consider supporting the project financially.

In a recommendation from West Hants chief administrative officer Martin Laycock, council would guarantee $4,592,535 in projected contributions for the construction of a new rink, plus any additional cost overages.

The final deadline to get an application in to the Small Communities Fund, and access to federal and provincial funding, potentially amounting to $6 million in total, is Sept. 15.

The design allows for the future expansion of an attached indoor soccer field, which would be considered a second phase of the project. Phase two would be considered at a later date, if the arena goes ahead.

Read More:

West Hants arena proposal package

Windsor Council could consider Plan B

With Windsor’s latest hockey arena dreams dashed, what’s next?

Windsor Council nixes Long Pond Arena proposal

West Hants Council has three options to consider on Aug. 21:

Pass a motion guaranteeing the funds - a requirement from the provincial government to move the project ahead. There are risks associated with this plan, including the potential for a tax increase to pay for the debt servicing costs, according to the CAO’s report.

Council not move forward with project - which would mean the project is beyond salvaging in the near future and access to the provincial and federal funding is gone.

Or council could direct the CAO to seek an alternative rink project with refined estimates, however, that could put the timeline too far ahead, and therefore make the provincial and federal funds unaccessible.

In CAO Laycock’s report, he said option 1, moving ahead with the arena project, would require taking a significant amount of money out of the operating reserve and increasing the municipality’s debt servicing by $2.5 million. It’s estimated that this would require a 3.5 cent increase to the general tax rate.

The proposal includes a built-in 20 per cent contingency and the cost of the facility is based on worst-case scenario in terms of borrowing needs, meaning West Hants would have to be responsible for all of their portion of the funds.

Laycock’s report said there’s potential for the Town of Windsor to join in on the project, along with community fundraising to help mitigate the financial burden on the municipality.

The Proposal

The proposed new arena will be located at the Hants County Exhibition Grounds, encompassing four acres of land on Wentworth Road and Centennial Drive. The project is within Town of Windsor limits.

The arena would be a 44,000 square foot recreation ice surface that could be used year-round. According to Laycock’s report, the municipality is currently in “productive discussions for purchase of the land from the Windsor Agricultural Society, current owner of the property.”

The building will include: an NHL-sized ice surface, 10 dressing rooms, 500 seat capacity, a walking track and an observation room.

The report cites recreational and economic benefit to the entire region of Windsor-West Hants if the project is built.

The facility would be owned by the municipality of West Hants and would enter into discussions with the Board of the Newport Rink Society to determine their interest and ability in running the facility.

Based on an initial Class D estimate, the rink is estimated to cost a total of $10,592,535.

Broken down, here’s where that comes from:

Estimated rink cost - $7,250,000

Site prep/parking lot - $500,000

Contingency - $1,550,000

Net HST - $377,520

Land purchase - $365,015

Financing - $550,000

Timeline, if approved

January 2019, design and engineering work completed. May 2019, project goes to tender. July 2019, construction begins. November 2019, arena opens.

Windsor mayor Anna Allen said she’ll be waiting to see what West Hants council decides before calling a special meetings of their own.

Lisa Hines, general manager of the exhibition and president of the agricultural society, which owns the land, provided no comment on the matter.

Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison said in a statement that he was encouraged that a new proposal has come forward. 

“There is a narrow window to submit a project to Infrastructure Canada for review and it would be unfortunate to miss that opportunity. Mayor Allen commendably said she was confident her council would seriously consider another plan," Brison said. "I am confident that the government would consider additional ways to honour Long Pond and the important hockey heritage that exists in the community should other heritage-specific projects be proposed.”

Editor's Note - An earlier version of this story said the proposed arena will be called the Hants West Arena, which was identified in the CAO's report. According to Warden Abraham Zebian, that name isn't confirmed yet, and has been removed from this story. 

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