Birthplace of hockey heritage centre project hit with another setback

King's-Edgehill School in Windsor, N.S., is withdrawing a $1-million financial commitment for construction of a new hockey rink and heritage museum in the town amid dissension over competing plans for the project.

First announced in early 2014, the $12-million Long Pond Hockey Heritage Centre would include an NHL-sized ice surface, museum and indoor walking track located just steps from where the game was supposedly first played.

Eight million dollars in funding for the project was to come from the three levels of government. Another $1 million was to come from King's-Edgehill School, while fundraising would provide the remaining $3 million. So far, the Long Pond Arena Society has received funding pledges of about $300,000.

While the project was originally championed by the Long Pond Arena Society, a decision was made that the project would be jointly owned by the Town of Windsor and the Municipality of the District of West Hants so that it could tap into federal funds.

The project has been touted as Cooperstown North, a reference to Cooperstown, N.Y., the town that houses the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which is a popular tourist attraction.

'In the middle of rifts'

Windsor Mayor Anna Allen says she is disappointed to see the school back out but she understands why it did.

"They can't afford to get in the middle of rifts in a small community such as this," she said.

The reason for the rift is there's no longer one proposal for the rink and heritage centre. The Windsor Agricultural Society said it sent out a proposal on April 18 to the three levels of government explaining its vision of building an arena and museum for $9 million at the site of the Hants County Exhibition.

Lisa Hines, the society's president, said its proposal makes more sense because the location already has some of the existing infrastructure needed.

The Long Pond location would require additional infrastructure, such as expanding existing roads and building parking lots.

'A lot of wait-and-see situations'

Allen prefers the Long Pond option, in part because of the historical significance of the location.

"The [Windsor Agriculture] Society itself, what they've presented isn't very clear, there's a lot of loose ends, a lot of wait-and-see situations," said Allen.

She said she hasn't received a copy of the Windsor Agriculture Society's proposal, though Hines said copies were sent to all of the stakeholders involved.

The proposals have people in the community talking.

"There's been a huge debate, which has left the hockey arena and made it into the online arena and anywhere people get together," said Joe Seagram, the headmaster at King's-Edgehill School.

With division in the community, Seagram said the school decided to withdraw its $1-million funding commitment, but doesn't rule out supporting a project in the future.

The school was also going to allow use of its roads, which would need to be expanded, to provide a second way in and out of Long Pond. At present, the only way to get there is through the Dill Farm property.

A bucket-list destination for hockey fans

Proponents of the Long Pond project say it would be a major tourist attraction and provide a much-needed boost to the town's economy.

Seagram said he can't understand why there's dissension.

"You've got something unique about Windsor, something any other small community or in the world would kill for, and we can't have a unified vision of how to celebrate this," he said.

With the $1 million funding pledge now revoked, Seagram said the reaction of the community has surprised him.

"I've had very positive notes of support, of understanding, and appreciation, a lot of sadness the community has acted in such a way," he said.