Pair of arenas set to be repurposed

·2 min read

A pair of hockey arenas are set to receive a new purpose.

Chatham-Kent council has agreed to move ahead with a pilot project for the temporary repurposing of two arenas.

A staff report on Nov. 9 recommended Erickson Arena and Bothwell Arena be converted into multi-purpose facilities from December to March 2021, with the possibility of extending the trial until ice installation that year.

The goal is to provide an opportunity for more indoor activities, such as pickleball and indoor soccer, given the greater demand due to snowbirds staying home this winter season.

The motion for Erickson Arena was carried 14-3. Councillors Authier, Finn and Pinsonneault voted not in favour of the motion. However, the motion for Bothwell arena passed 9-8.

Ward 3 Councillor John Wright voted against the motion for Bothwell and in favour of the motion for Erickson Arena. He said the populations of Chatham and Bothwell are significantly different, adding there isn’t a large amount of residents to use the arena in Bothwell.

“Eight dollars and 50 cents an hour is steep for any residents to use it,” said Wright.

According to the report, this year’s ice rentals have fallen from 42 percent of available ice hours used to 31 per cent because of the pandemic. Due to the lack of ice time rentals as a result of COVID-19, the municipality’s 10 arenas are operating at a deficit of $235,867 per month. The report believes usage will increase if the facilities are repurposed to accommodate indoor sports.

Bothwell arena was selected because of its low usage, which could be accommodated at the public arenas in Dresden, Ridgetown and Blenheim.

Councillor Steve Pinsonneault didn’t support the recommendations. He said the Bothwell community was “blindsided” by the report.

“Let’s just finish this year off status quo,” said Pinsonneault.

Ice presently scheduled at the Erickson Arena would be transferred to the Thames Campus Arena upon completion of the facility’s repairs.

The following council-approved rates for arena floor rentals would be applied:

Arena floor hourly – Minor organizations: $60.35/hour

Arena floor hourly – Adult: $70.68/hour

Arena floor daily – Minor organizations: $643.26/day; and

Arena floor daily – Regular rate: $793.71/day.

Staff are also recommending the shinny hockey hourly play rate of $8.50 per user be used to accommodate possible drop-in pickleball players.

The proposed repurposing will provide an estimated operational savings of $164,000 for the two arenas based on usage. These savings are based on the estimated reduction in costs associated with ice making. Expenses are estimated to be $25,000, for a net savings of $139,000.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News