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West Hants council approves arena project at Hants County Exhibition location

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 voted to approve on Aug. 21 - Contributed

‘We need a win’

WINDSOR, N.S. - If the arena project were a hockey game, West Hants just approved it in overtime. 

After years of debate, back-and-forth, studies, and hurt feelings, Windsor will finally be getting a new arena, thanks to the Municipality of West Hants. 

In a unanimous vote Aug. 21, West Hants council approved a motion to guarantee approximately $4.5 million in funds to be put towards an arena at the Hants County Exhibition grounds, located off of Wentworth Road in Windsor. 

The project, estimated to cost approximately $10.5 million in total, including land purchase, HST, and a parking lot, could house 500 seats and 10 dressing rooms, although the design has yet to be finalized. 

The project could also allow for future expansion via a second phase, which could incorporate an indoor soccer rink, which would be considered at a later time. 

The meeting on Aug. 21 was called quickly, after the municipality decided to pursue their own project, following Windsor council’s decision to pull the Long Pond arena project, citing cost overruns and community division.

West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian said he wanted to ensure the region didn’t lose out on an opportunity to secure a combined $6 million in provincial and federal funding. 

“It’s obvious that council recognized the need for a successful conclusion to this project saga,” Zebian said. “We need a win.” 

Several councillors raised concerns, including the potential for the tax rate to increase if West Hants is on the hook for the entire $4.5 million, and potentially dipping into the reserve funds.

Zebian said he’s hopeful that the Town of Windsor, corporate sponsors and fundraisers will rally around this new project.

“With a very short period of time, we wanted to present what would be the worst case scenario to our council and residents, and even the worst case scenario is still pretty good,” he said. 

“The support is still there from the earlier proposal, it’s just shifted to this site,” Zebian continued. 

“I’m more than confident that we’ll be breaking ground by May (2019) and all of the money will be accounted for,” he said. 

READ MORE:

West Hants could revive arena dreams with Plan B proposal

West Hants arena proposal package

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

Windsor Council nixes Long Pond Arena proposal

For full coverage of how the meeting unfolded, read reporter Colin Chisholm’s Twitter thread here 

Paul Phillips, president of the West Hants Minor Hockey Association, said he was thrilled with the municipality’s decision, saying the area needs two ice surfaces. 

“We needed something, we were happy with whatever location it was going to be,” Phillips said after West Hants voted. “I think regardless of where your position was, for Long Pond or against it, I think people will be on board with this. It’s a good thing for the community.”

West Hants Chief Administrative Officer Martin Laycock said the next steps the municipality will take will be working with provincial representatives to make sure the application proceeds through the Small Communities Fund. 

“I think our biggest thing is to get the fundraising component up and running and I’ll be reaching out to (CAO Louis Coutinho) who has some experience with this,” he said.

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