The City of Penticton will study options to keep the aging Memorial and McLaren arenas operational for another 10 years, after which the city hopes to have secured funding for a replacement twin-rink surface.
Council made the decision Tuesday, while also voting to surrender a $6 million grant earmarked for the twin-rink SOEC project. The city was forced to hand the gas tax grant back to the Union of B.C. Municipalities because it failed to find the remainder of the project’s funding by the March 31, 2019 deadline.
Director of facilities Bregje Kozak told council Memorial Arena needs $6 million, and McLaren needs $1.5 million just to keep the lights on in the short term. She pointed to a $500,000 roof replacement to take place this year at Memorial and the looming need for the freon ice plant at McLaren to be replaced.
Despite the funding setback for the $34 million twin-rink project, Kozak said it is still the best way forward. The plan would see a new facility built on the west edge of the SOEC campus, Memorial Arena converted into a dry facility and McLaren demolished.
“This project should really be considered in the overall lens of best value for the city. While the initial costs are high, the other option of continuing to provide bare minimum investment into the facilities is unsustainable,” Kozak said.
City council voted to support the staff recommendation to have the city plan to invest enough in the two buildings to keep them open for up to 10 years while at the same time seeking funding to replace or upgrade them.
The cost of upgrading Memorial and McLaren to a modern standard could be as high as $23 million, council heard.
“It’s disappointing that we have to decline the $6 million, because they don’t come around very often,” Coun. Judy Sentes said. “I really want to see that twin-rink facility be pursued.”
Coun. Frank Regehr was less enthusiastic, saying the city has plenty of other priorities and it’s too soon to say whether the twin-rink plan deserves the new council’s support.
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