Saanich is playing the waiting game after council approved a grant application to improve parts of Pearkes Recreation Centre, including one of four hockey rinks in the district.
The application for $7.26 million dollars from a joint federal-provincial program would help fund 73 per cent of proposed improvements to the centre. Saanich plans to spend $2.65 million.
If authorities approve the grant, Saanich would not only be able to replace the ice slab and snow pit of Gold Arena – the name of the the original rink that opened in 1968 – it could also improve other parts of the centre, which isn’t in the current budget, said Graham Thomson, centre manager.
Saanich would have the opportunity to rehabilitate and improve the centre sooner than proposed in the facilities master plan, said Thomson.
The facilities report identifies Pearkes Recreation Centre as a medium priority. Service delivery appears “manageable” over next four to seven years under this status. “Capacity issues may be critical requiring attention within [eight to] 15 years,” it reads.
Thomson said Saanich would also get more for its buck if funding authorities approved the grant. “The funding would allow for more improvements to the centre with nearly the same amount it would cost to replace the slab and the snow pit,” he said.
Should Saanich not receive the grant money, it would replace only the ice slab and snow pit of Gold Arena.
Kelli-Ann Armstrong, Saanich’s senior manager of recreation, said it is an “anomaly” for the rink to have operated for 50-plus years.
“This longevity cannot be counted as the norm, or as best practices,” she said.
Thomson said it is too early to discuss potential disruptions because Saanich currently lacks a construction schedule. “Even with grant funding, which would give us the opportunity for a planned closure, the earliest we would proceed with construction would be spring [or] summer 2020,” he said.
He said staff will work with regional partners on mitigation plans in advance of construction and engage with users to minimize the impact, adding Pearkes’ Green Arena would remain open during construction.
Plans for a third rink at Pearkes, however, remain unrealized, and at least one Saanich Minor Hockey Association (SMHA) officials has already raised concerns about the potential effects of closing down Gold Arena.
“Without an alternative rink, when the Gold rink goes down, the association goes down,” said SMHA president David Horricks earlier. “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. You need a certain threshold of kids in order to populate all the age groups.”