WINDSOR, N.S. — Windsor council has decided that Long Pond would be the town’s preferred location for a new arena facility.
The 4-1 vote was held during the Feb. 13, 2018 committee of the whole meeting.
Following a lengthy presentation from Chief Administrative Officer Louis Coutinho, where he highlighted seven potential sites for an arena facility, council ultimately ended up going with the original site where the debate began.
All but Coun. Jim Ivey was in favour of the Long Pond location, with Ivey saying he preferred the Hants County Exhibition Grounds.
Mayor Anna Allen, who made the motion to select the Long Pond site, said the location would be a benefit to the town’s economic development and hockey heritage.
“I think, with due diligence, we have to build something that’s dedicated to the Birthplace of Hockey and nothing more, and that location is Long Pond,” Allen said. “It’s a perfect triangle with King’s (Edgehill School), Haliburton and Long Pond.”
The mayor made the following motion: “I would recommend to council that the Long Pond site be the proposed arena location and that staff begin work on obtaining all necessary documentation to advance this application with provincial and federal approvals; that discussions to modify Haliburton House to include expansion of the Hockey Heritage Museum be completed as soon as possible; that staff explore the rebirth of the Stannus Street rink; and that staff explore all potential partnerships, including with King’s-Edgehill School, Nova Scotia Museums and other provincial agencies and the private sector on achieving our hockey heritage goals.”
Ivey said he was surprised this project no longer has a built-in museum component, which was what was originally pitched.
“Like in hockey where you get to pick one player that’s going to help win the game... it looks like generally it’s leaning towards picking your friend, versus picking the most talented kid on the ice, the one that’s going to help you win the game” Ivey said.
“The goal here is to win the game longer term, right? We’re picking a choice here that we don’t have financials to judge on this,” he continued.
“My concern is that we’re voting for something that is higher risk as compared to other options, that’s higher risk to the taxpayers of this town, and for a town that is stretched. Every year we’re struggling figuring out where we’re going to come up with the money for the basics,” he said.
He added that, now that the Municipality of West Hants is out of the inter-municipal agreement, Windsor taxpayers will be on the hook for any shortfalls.
Deputy Mayor Laurie Murley, who chaired the meeting, said public input on the project will be important, however, how that will happen and what input the public will actually have is unknown at this time.
During discussions, Coutinho emphasized that they only had $1 million from the town, $1 million from the Municipality of West Hants and $3 million from the provincial government guaranteed, with the hope of up to one-third of construction costs coming from the federal government.
Given the capital funding potential, Coutinho suggested to council that the focus be primarily on the arena itself, rather than a museum/arena combination, which is a major change in scope for the project. He stated that the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society is happy in its current location at Haliburton House Museum.
The CAO also said that during discussions with King’s-Edgehill School in the consultation process, the private school would donate the land to Windsor for the purpose of building a rink and would also donate dressing rooms for the facility, no matter the location.
With the deadline to apply for federal funding looming, Coutinho asked council to make a decision on the site so that staff could work on securing the remaining components of the project.
He added that whatever levels of fundraising or corporate sponsorship come in will determine extras, like walking trails, storage space, and other amenities.
“Without an injection of very substantial funding, we’re limited with what we can build,” Coutinho said during the presentation.
Total costs of what this project will be have yet to be determined as a detailed Class D estimate needs to be drafted, but Coutinho said he estimated that a $9 million project would be likely, with one or more corporate sponsors signing on.
After consulting with several stakeholders and potential users of a new facility, Coutinho said refurbishing the existing arena at the Hants County Exhibition Grounds wouldn’t have been ideal as switching back and forth from ice surface to horse show venue was seen as undesirable.
He said the agriculture society indicated that if the existing arena were retrofitted to fully become an ice surface, the town would have to build a horse show venue for the society.
The CAO also said that staff would look into reviving the old Stannus rink as part of the heritage component.
More stories on the proposed Hockey Heritage Centre
David Hunter, general manager of the Valley Maple Leafs, a junior B hockey team based in Windsor, said he’s concerned with the size of the arena.
“To go ahead with a project with $7.5 million, that’s not enough,” Hunter said. “They talked to the Brooklyn rink, who said the most they ever get out there is 300 people, but who do they have out there as a draw? Minor hockey? The Valley Maple Leafs was never mentioned here. Do they want us here?”
Harry Ullock, a Windsor resident and member of the Windsor Agricultural Society, said they offered the exhibition grounds as a location because of the proximity to existing infrastructure.
“The unspoken factor tonight is accessibility on College Road. I was the traffic authority here for five years, so I know the level of complaints we’d get just from a soccer game, let alone functions that could draw three times that,” Ullock said. “If they want a second access? How many millions are they going to spend on that to get to a… poor location?”
He was also concerned that the public was never provided the opportunity to give their input during a public meeting before a decision was made.
Paul Phillips, the president of West Hants Minor Hockey, said he wasn’t concerned with the location of the rink but is hopeful ice time rates will stay relatively the same.
“Our membership has stayed somewhat constant, despite a blip when the Brooklyn arena collapsed,” Phillips said. “In order for us to stay constant, our cost structure has to stay similar or the same. If rink costs go up, that’s our biggest cost.”
He added that the minor hockey association is in support of the project, but wants to make sure costs don’t skyrocket.
The seven options
Coutinho presented seven potential options for building a new arena in Windsor.
Windsor council ultimately opted for building a hockey rink at Long Pond, and explore expanding the hockey heritage potential of the Haliburton House Museum and the Stannus Rink.
The seven options were:
— Refurbishing the existing Hants County Exhibition Arena. It was an estimated $6.6 million to $8.5 million to complete, plus additional costs of building a new horse show arena.
— Building a new arena on Hants County Exhibition Grounds.
— Building an arena on land the town already owns on Wentworth Road, where Windsor Regional High School used to be located.
— Building a new arena on Long Pond
— Building a new arena on another property being explored if conditions are viable, the Haliburton property for example.
— Building a new arena on Long Pond and modifying Haliburton House to include an extension of the museum in a bundle.
— Building a new arena on Long Pond, modifying Haliburton House to include an expansion of the museum and also exploring the rebirth of the Stannus Rink as a heritage bundle.
Final designs of the proposal have no yet been completed.