West Van council acknowledges cry for more local ice sports facilities

Local hockey groups are urging West Vancouver council to prioritize the needs of ice rink users, and acknowledge the lack of ice space currently available to the community.

On Monday evening, the District of West Vancouver council chamber was brimming with ice users of all kinds.

Members of the West Vancouver Minor Hockey Association lead the charge in voicing their concerns over the district's inadequate sporting facilities, while the Vancouver Skating Club and local BC Hockey team tagged along for support.

“We, as a community of ice users, are underserved by our community,” said Tom Oberti, president of the West Vancouver Minor Hockey Association.

“There is a rather desperate need for additional ice surface in the community. One public ice sheet is rather deficient in terms of our population,” he said, adding how the team is currently forced to rent practice ice at private facilities in North Vancouver, and sometimes at rinks as far as Burnaby.

“The cost is exorbitant,” he added.

Oberti said West Vancouver’s current arena, which was erected on 22nd St in 1967 and is home to a 15,000-square foot ice surface, isn’t enough to satiate the needs of local hockey players, figure skaters and other sportspeople.

The existing arena is “booked solid” from 6 a.m. to 10:45 p.m. every day, he said, and is even kept open and busy on statutory holidays.

“The demand far exceeds the supply,” he continued, adding how he would like to see his two daughters be able to try their hand at figure skating, but with the lack of facilities, their opportunities are limited.

In 2018, the West Vancouver Community Centres Society proposed a plan that would see an expansion of the community centre to include a bigger ice rink, alongside other amenities like a seniors recreation facility. Another idea had been floated to replace the ice arena within five years, swapping it out for a new sportsplex at the corner of Gordon Avenue and 21st Street that would include a new regulation-size ice rink, as well as a second sheet of ice for leisure skating.

Oberti had appeared before council at the time to support the plan and comment on the needs of ice users even then. The plan ended up being tabled.

“It’s time for some future planning. We’re advocating to make sure that these ice users are considered in the district’s planning, because we don’t see any evidence of it right now, whether that is in the Upper Lands plan or in the renewal of existing facilities,” he said.

Oberti said he didn’t expect council to commit to a new ice sheet immediately, but he was hoping they would recognize the plight of the local sporting communities — and acknowledge that resolution does need to be made somewhere down the line.

“We’re aware of the processes that are required to build new facilities like this, so we’re not naive to think that council are going to come back and say that they will build an arena,” he said. “We’re not married to any solution. We’re just looking for a future plan.”

The prospect of ice rink revitalization or extension was well met by all of council, with West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager and members of council thanking Oberti for his tireless work volunteering with the association, and for bringing the issue to their attention.

Sager said council will be making a “significant announcement” on a new sporting facility, either within Cypress Village or in the redevelopment of Park Royal, and that an ice rink would be considered as a community amenity.

In the meantime, he suggested Oberti write a list of suggestions on the ways council can help maintain the rink that is available.

Councillor Nora Gambioli, after commending Oberti’s efforts, said $831,000 of the current budget proposal for 2023 is being proposed for asset preservation of the ice arena.

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.


Mina Kerr-Lazenby, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News