‘Old cold barn’ giving Mattawa hope to reopen arena

·3 min read

Sub-zero weather is giving the Mike Rodden Arena in Mattawa a chance to reopen, but it’s contingent on the province lifting the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown February 11.

“Who would have thought that the old, cold barn would be an advantage when it gets cold,” said Mayor Dean Backer during the virtual Facebook live-streamed council meeting Tuesday evening.

Renee-Anne Paquett, Mattawa’s new recreation department director, said the ice plant doesn’t need to run and use as much electricity to keep the surface hard when it’s cold.

Councillors Dexture Sarrazin and Loren Mick had asked about cost factors following Paquett’s report about the arena. She had said the Mattawa Minor Hockey Association ended its season following Ontario announcing its latest restrictions to address rising infections and hospitalizations, mostly in southern Ontario.

Without minor hockey, Paquett said they only expect public skating and men’s hockey to be potential arena users with minimal revenues. But she said there’s no need to rush the decision because staff have been reallocated to do other things in the meantime and less electricity used than during mild months.

Even if they wanted to remove the ice, she said the “weather has to cooperate” as well.

“There’s not just a shutoff switch and put the heat on,” she said, noting the building isn’t insulated from the winter temperatures.

Sarrazin said he wouldn’t want to be a municipal “trend-setter’ when it came to keeping the arena open (noting East Ferris already decided to pull its ice). But he also wanted to see all the work to get the ice in good shape pay off if there is an opportunity to provide recreational opportunities to residents in February and March.

“I’d like to see it stay if at all possible,” he said.

Coun. Laura Ross it would be wise to wait to make a decision seeing the ice is maintaining itself right now.

Mayor Backer said they can wait until their February 8 meeting to decide, giving them a chance to see whether the province is likely to extend or end the shutdown of such facilities.

Paquett said there’s plenty of work being done in the arena until then, including the waxing of the floors, replacing baseboards, and bench repairs. Staff are also getting the fitness centre ready in case they can open that as well, along with assorted other chores and training.

“Lots of things to keep us busy,” she said.

Backer and council members commended all the township staff across the departments for rising to the occasion and accepting different work priorities as they react to the provincial orders.

“In this day and age, especially we’re a union environment, I’m so proud of the guys and girls … a lot of people would say ‘it’s not my job, not in my job description’ and everybody is basically … has a sense of community and would do whatever is needed in whatever department,” he said. “Once we get over this nightmare we’ll definitely show a sign of respect and gratitude to everyone involved with our staff.”

Paquett said it’s a “team effort” that just needs a coordinated approach.

Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca