Residents want sports centre, affordable housing at former Dartmouth rink site

Some Dartmouth, N.S., residents would like to see Halifax municipal staff repurpose a former ice rink in the city's north-end as a multi-sport centre.

The Gerald B. Gray Memorial Arena was declared surplus after a new four-rink facility opened in Burnside last year and repairs to the arenas at Cole Harbour Place were completed.

Kim Manthrie would like the space to be available for roller derby, ball hockey and lacrosse.

"We all are scrambling for the same space," said Manthrie, a member of the Anchor City Rollers, a flat track roller derby club. "This is a good space for sports."

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A non-profit proposal from Soccer Nova Scotia was rejected earlier this year because of the proximity to a private indoor field facility. The councillor for the area, Tony Mancini, recommended gathering community input on what to do with the arena and the 1.9 hectares of land before putting it up for sale. 

Halifax Regional Municipality said the building may need to be demolished to make way for other land uses. 

On Saturday, city staff opened the arena to hear resident's pitches.

Golam Talukder also envisions using the facility for a variety of sports as well as a community centre.

"We need some dialogue between each other,"  said Talukder. "I would like to know a bit about where I live. I would like to let people know who I am. I want social inclusion."

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A representative from Ball Hockey Nova Scotia said there's enough demand from recreational groups to fill the centre for 10 hours a day.

"We need a place and this is a very, very nice place," said Sheldon O'Brien, who has been playing ball and ice hockey at the rink for 43 years.

"This is my second home."

Affordable housing pitched

Doris MacDonald recommended using the land to build affordable housing for seniors. Many in the area are struggling to make ends meet, she said.

"We're surrounded by a lot of seniors, disabled people and low-income people that would certainly benefit from such a thing," said MacDonald. "If they could find it in their hearts to do such a thing that would be greatly appreciated by the community."

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Mancini would also like to see affordable housing on the site, including opportunities for home ownership.

"We're truly here to listen," said Mancini. "Who knows better than the people who live here and come in and out of here day in and day out."

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Staff will report back on the top two or three things the community wants after the public consultation stage wraps up in July, he said.