A proposal is in the works for the expansive field at Spectrum Community School to host an ice pad, athletic facility and artificial turf field for soccer, football and rugby. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Minor hockey gets behind Spectrum rink proposal

Association says Saanich in need of additional ice surfaces

Though it’s still an unofficial proposal, the timing of a new ice rink at Spectrum Community School could be a life saver for the Saanich Minor Hockey Association, according to SMHA president David Horricks.

Pearkes Arena’s Gold rink faces a significant renovation within five years (a $2 to $4 million project). That has Saanich Minor Hockey staring at a major crisis, Horricks said, as before- and after- school ice times are at a premium in Saanich and Victoria for youth ice programming. It’s Horricks’ concern throughout that period that Saanich Minor Hockey will not be able to function.

READ MORE: Third rink needed immediately at Pearkes, users say

“Without an alternative rink, when the Gold rink goes down, the association goes down,” Horricks said. “We have to get that message to the council. Saanich Minor Hockey would close, you can’t run it with one rink, it’s impossible,” Horricks said. “You need a certain threshold of kids in order to populate all the age groups.”

Horricks said Saanich Minor Hockey supports the Spectrum initiative but not at the expense of another rink at Pearkes.

“The need for another rink at Pearkes remains our No. 1 concern,” he said. “If two more rinks were built they would both be full immediately.”

As it is, each morning Saanich Minor Hockey uses both Pearkes ice rinks plus at least two other rinks.

It’s unknown right now how long Pearkes would be without an arena when it comes time to rebuild the Gold rink. Which is why a movement at Spectrum to build a pop-up ice rink and turf field could play a key role in Saanich Minor Hockey’s future. Horricks and many others also believe there is enough demand to justify a third rink at Pearkes, as well as a Spectrum rink.

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Spectrum’s model is in the early stages but the premise is to create a pop-up ice rink which uses a basic, cost-effective structure around the rink. Next to that would be a full-sized artificial athletic turf to suit the needs of the Spectrum football and soccer teams, as well as community soccer, baseball and field lacrosse associations, all of which have been represented in committee meetings.

Spectrum’s ice hockey academy practices during school hours at Pearkes arena, ice time that would be hard to make up. Among the various pieces is the added interest for South Island Royals Major and Minor Midget hockey teams which are based at Spectrum and currently train out of Pearkes.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes campaigned on the promise to explore an additional rink in Saanich and has met Spectrum principal Bruce Bidney, athletic director Dominic Butcher and the new committee that is seeking an ice rink at Spectrum.

“It may very well be that Spectrum addresses the needs of the Saanich Minor Hockey Association while the Pearkes [Gold] rink is being [rebuilt],” Haynes said.

Haynes said finding the initial money for construction is only the first step. Following that there needs to be a business plan to address the annual top-up costs as most ice rinks in B.C. are run with an accepted annual deficit. However, that deficit could be limited based on the number of user groups, as well as the extent of Saanich’s involvement.

“I’m delighted to have these can-do conversations in Saanich,” Haynes said. “We’re starting to see a need in the community to upgrade the recreation facility.”

Saanich is in the midst of a recreational facility review that could show interest for a third rink. It’s possible, though uncertain, that Saanich could become involved in the Spectrum project.

“There is the question after the [initial set-up cost] as to who will pay the annual top-up bills,” Haynes said, noting ice rinks rarely break even on the fiscal ledger.

Bidney arrived at Spectrum school from Merritt last year where a town of 8,000 had two rinks.

Horricks pointed out that Saanich currently offers two rinks to 114,000 people, Victoria one rink for 85,000 people, Langford one rink for 35,000 people, Esquimalt two (Archie Browning and CFB Naden’s Wurtele) for 17,000. Those are numbers that don’t add up, Horricks said.

“Next thing we’re doing as a school and a community is a feasibility piece, to see if this is something we can actually do,” Bidney said. “Right now we meet as a committee once a month, and the idea is to have a better idea soon for a business plan, something we can use as a timeline.”

Families will leave and once they’re gone, there is little hope in immediately resurrecting the organization, Horricks said. Something else could eventually come in but it will take years, and start from scratch.

”The amount of money brought into the local economy from minor hockey tournaments is very significant,” Horricks added. “If we lose one of our rinks, we are likely unsustainable as a minor hockey association, which of course is bad for the community’s young people but also for local business and municipal revenue.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

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