Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Aging ice rinks to get makeovers

Three other city facilities to be decommissioned

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Winnipeg has a new plan to revamp aging ice rinks.

City officials announced Thursday they will work with the province and community centres to help build new sheets of ice at East End Community Centre and Garden City Community Centre.

When they're ready, the city will decommission Roland Michener, Vimy and Old Exhibition arenas.

The city and province will each contribute one-third of the $17-million cost to build a multiplex facility at Garden City Community Centre on Kingsbury Avenue and one-third toward a $9-million renovation and expansion of East End Arena on Pandora Avenue East.

In both cases, the remaining one-third of the cost will be paid for by the community centres, which will operate the facilities.

Mayor Sam Katz said city-owned arenas are in terrible shape, and the two projects could serve as models for how Winnipeg could work to fix up other ice rinks.

Winnipeg has 39 sheets of ice, including 15 sheets in city-owned and operated arenas.

Previous city reports have estimated it would cost the city $51 million to maintain the facilities in their current state and $80 million to improve them. The bulk of the city's arenas are more than 40 years old and in such rough shape they are nearing a "crisis" state, a 2010 report said.

"They're in a bad state of repair and I think we all know that," Katz said. "We've been trying to work towards a solution with our ice rinks and it looks like we finally have one."

In 2011, the city issued an expression-of-interest to see if any private businesses or non-profits want to build and operate new multiplex arenas or add sheets of ice in existing facilities. The call yielded several responses, which did not meet the criteria but helped the city continue dialogue with community centres that were interested in fixing up the facilities.

Katz said the city has started similar discussions with other interested community groups regarding other arenas, and the city's long-term plan is to decommission older sheets of ice once there are new ones built to replace them.

The city will decommission the Roland Michener Arena, estimated to need between $5 million and $8 million in maintenance, once the renovation and expansion are complete at East End. Similarly, the city will decommission Vimy and Old Exhibition arenas once the multiplex is operational at Garden City.

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt said all of the city-run learn-to-skate and other ice programs will transfer over to East End Arena from Roland Michener once the expansion is complete. Right now, he said, the city spends about $270,000 a year to maintain the Roland Michener Arena -- money that will be saved once it is decommissioned.

The decommissioned site will eventually be sold for a seniors housing project, Wyatt said, and the proceeds of the sale will go toward an aquatic park in Transcona.

Don Gale, past-president of the East End Community Centre, said the centre has submitted a business plan and can afford to finance its share of the project costs. He said the renovation will help revamp parts of the arena that are outdated and add a third sheet of ice. They hope they can start construction by this fall.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2013 A3

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