Those looking for ice time in Ridgetown will have to wait a bit longer.
The municipality is moving ahead with plans to reopen rinks across Chatham-Kent. All 10 arenas were closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blenheim, Dresden and Tilbury arenas reopened in August, but the others had remained shut.
During the September 14 council meeting, Ward 1 Councillor Melissa Harrigan put forward a motion requesting the municipality resume its committed arena service levels. She stressed the importance of not pushing a result until the next council meeting.
“Having a local arena is something that is incredibly important to a number of people and a number of stakeholders,” Harrigan said.
Also pushing for rinks to reopen was Ward 3 Councillor Steve Pinsonneault. He urged council to vote in favour of the motion, stating many local hockey and skating groups are wondering when they would be able to get back on the ice.
Pinsonneault said these are unprecedented times, and the municipality must do as much damage control as possible to keep our arena systems healthy. He fears once groups leave, they will not return.
“In East Kent here, we’re a border ward, and once a group leaves, they don’t come back,” said Pinsonneault.
Councillors voted 15-2 to support Harrigan’s motion to honour their commitment made in the 2020 budget process to keep all arenas open.
Parks Director Jeff Bray had recommended reopening Chatham Memorial, Erickson and Wallaceburg arenas while keeping Bothwell, Ridgetown, Wheatley and Thames Campus arenas closed for now.
Thames Campus and Ridgetown arena, however, are due for repairs.
According to CAO Don Shropshire, while it takes approximately seven to 10 days to install ice, Ridgetown’s arena currently has an issue with the compressor, and therefore, the reopening will be delayed. The arena has approximately two and a half hours worth of requests to use the ice. Those requests will be accommodated, in the short term, in Blenheim, while repairs are being made.
While repairs aren’t expected to be made until mid-November, the other five arenas are expected to open by the end of the month.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News