As Islanders commit to 4 more years, Eastlink Centre skating on thin ice

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As Islanders commit to 4 more years, Eastlink Centre skating on thin ice

The Charlottetown Islanders have signed a new four-year agreement with the Eastlink Centre, securing its Charlottetown future even as the arena is being stretched to its limits.

The deal means the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team will continue to be one of the arena's two major tenants, along with the Island Storm basketball team. 

But, it will also mean a lot money and effort for ongoing maintenance of the nearly 30-year-old facility.

"We're always looking at upgrading," said general manager Dave McGrath. "We're getting pretty close to that fullness, as they say in the business."

The 3,700-seat Eastlink Centre has been the home rink of the Charlottetown Islanders since the team relocated from Montreal in 2003. 

Every year, it spends close to $1.7 million for ongoing maintenance and upgrades. The facility will work on paving the parking lot this year. And electrical and plumbing in an older building always needs regular upkeep.

The city said it's worked hard on arena upgrades to keep the centre at the top of its game.

"When you're serving the public as we are with this building, we have to be state of the art," said Deputy Mayor Mike Duffy. "We have to have the amenities in place that they feel safe and secure and they enjoy and they're looked after."

The Eastlink Centre has made major improvements to its seating plan, moving seats closer to the glass to give fans an opportunity to get nearer to the action, and added luxury boxes.

But, McGrath said there are limits to the building.

"We made numerous changes within this facility, but we've almost reached that peak and I think it's time that if we can move into something that's modern that the customer would enjoy, it would be a great thing," he said.

The Islanders' director of operations said the idea of playing in a new facility is appealing.

"There are those things that are out there that we'd obviously love to bring to Charlottetown, but there are limitations and we know that and at the end of the day, we can't make the roof any higher and the scoreboards are in the corners and that's just the way that it is," Craig Foster said.

The new agreements with the Eastlink Centre and the city mean the team's immediate future for playing in Charlottetown is secure. 

A task force has recommended the development of a 5,000-seat multi-use sports and event centre. 

Until one is built, the Eastlink Centre will continue to need upgrades and renovations — at least for the next four years.

"We see the advantages of this facility," Foster said. "Obviously, there's some drawbacks as well, but at the end of the day you know we work with what we have and this is our facility."

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