Policy and statistics took a backseat as real-world issues facing non-male athletes were brought to Penetanguishene council’s attention.
On a night filled with discussion, support, and caution over a proposed multi-use recreational facility in Penetanguishene, one delegate shared concerns over what the current state of hockey is within the small town.
Aaron Dion, president of the Penetanguishene Minor Hockey Association (PMHA), spoke at length to council during a recent committee of the whole meeting, providing support for the proposed construction of a modern multi-use hockey and curling facility which could cost as much as $49.1 million.
Currently, the Penetanguishene Memorial Community Centre (PMCC) is an outdated hockey rink built in 1954 with a single ice surface that is under regulation for modern hockey; structurally good but otherwise rated poor within the study; requiring pressing repairs to the roof, rink slab, and boards; and with one junior team dressing room and five others.
The PMHA presentation began with the needs and wants for a new facility, but moved away from the prepared slides as Dion related first-hand the main problems with the PMCC dressing rooms, especially for non-male players.
“We do have female players,” said Dion. “We have a diverse group of players, and there’s no dedicated space for female change rooms or players that are transgender.
“And often -- I’ve seen it, I’ve been involved with it -- we would usually use room #6. But if there was a visiting team, or if the (Penetang) Kings were using it when they were doing a retrofit to their room, we were asking our female players to change in the changeroom in the lobby. And I’ve also witnessed a female player being asked to change in the storage room. “So if you’re talking about need, that would be absolutely a must from our perspective,” Dion stressed.
According to statistics from Hockey Canada, the national governing body for hockey in Canada, females in the sport have grown exponentially as shown in the 20-year span of just over 8,000 players in 1990 to above 85,000 players in 2009.
Dion also explained that Hockey Canada had implemented a recent program for younger age groups involving half-ice games and practices.
“For the games, we often get two large teams or three teams coming into the facility (PMCC),” said Dion. “And when you have 18 children with their parents, young players and their parents in the dressing rooms, it gets really cramped and we don’t have enough changerooms.”
The final remark Dion made against playing conditions within the PMCC was to the undersized rink, which is 180-feet by 80-feet, as measured against regulation sized ice pads of 200-feet by 85-feet.
“It would be beneficial if our players were playing on a regulation ice surface,” stated Dion. “We’re praised for the quality of our ice, but we’re also mocked for the size of our ice; especially at the older age groups and the Junior ‘C’, it’s a different game to play.”
Dion recounted how PMHA leagues were struggling to share ice time on the single pad in the PMCC, often requiring borrowing ice time in neighbouring arenas of Midland and Port McNicoll to approach half of the recommended Hockey Canada practice hours for the teams.
Based on these needs, Dion transitioned into the PMHA wants, and that was focused on the proposed facility constructing two dedicated ice surfaces.
“For us, two ice surfaces means having more ice time and more tournaments,” Dion explained. According to Dion, three divisions of eight teams over a three-day tournament weekend could bring an estimated $325,000 to the town from roughly 400 families attending; numbers that a single ice rink cannot provide.
“The problem for us isn’t ‘Should we build two rinks?’, it’s ‘How are we going to build a hotel to house all these visitors coming into the town?’,” Dion mused.
However, those numbers weren’t the same for study principal planner Steve Langois of Monteith Brown Planning Consultants Ltd., who presented the final report earlier in the evening.
In response to a comment from a citizen who had asked if one rink was enough for the community at large, Langois replied that the viability of one or two new rinks was a continual topic of debate whenever the town’s recreation facilities were discussed.
“The number of youth -- and this is not just Penetang that’s dealing with this, but the number of youth are not increasing as fast as the rest of the population,” Langois explained, noting that the study looked to how the PMCC is currently used, as well as its demands and projected demographics.
“So while your town might be growing, the demand for ice sports -- specifically youth ice sports -- is growing at a much slower pace,” Langois concluded.
The full report for the arena and recreation centre study will be made available shortly on the Connect Penetanguishene website.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca