The Dryden Observer

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An arena reno project could fill fundraising vacuum

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

By Chris Marchand

As a city council subcommittee sets out to listen to the concerns of arena user groups in the coming weeks, the time is right to look back a few years to before the city’s financial problems narrowed its focus to bailing out a sinking ship.

Former community services manager Bill Latham bristled a little bit when he read councillor Martin MacKinnon’s quote from last week’s front page story which suggested that the concerns of arena user groups have not been listened to for a dozen or so years.

In fact, back in September 2009, Latham and a few engineers from JML presented a detailed three-phase plan to modernize the Dryden Memorial Arena — a plan that was developed to satisfy user concerns and better accommodate patterns of use at the local rink.

It was a big deal that somehow disappeared into the ether.

Phase One ($1.9 million) involved a 10 metre extension to the north aspect of Rink Two, four new change rooms, additional washrooms, storage, a workshop and other upgrades. Phase Two ($0.5 million) would focus on enhancing existing change rooms to better accommodate males and females and make changes to alter the second floor with a coaches room, interconnected change rooms and dedicated spaces for figure skating, softball, minor hockey and arena staff.

Phase Three ($3.3 million) included a plan to add a second story addition over the lobby area to house new offices, a cardio room for the pool and fitness centre, additional kitchen/concession facilities and an enhanced upper lobby area among other features.

The $8 million plan found itself pitted against the significantly cheaper and somewhat further advanced ‘Light The Ball Diamonds’ initiative in a chance to take advantage of a quick turnaround government funding opportunity for ‘shovel-ready’ projects.

At a tenth of the cost of the arena plan, the ball diamond project, supported by a devoted local fundraising campaign, ‘got the nod’ from the council of the day and was successful in obtaining funding. Meanwhile, the arena plan quickly faded from memory as the problems surrounding DMTS and the city’s financial reporting woes began to mount.

As we begin 2015, is Dryden’s residential tax base in any better mood to entertain an $8 million arena renovation project?

I’d say ‘not on your life’.

But there’s more than one way to skin this cat and the answer might lie in the present moment’s apparent community fundraising vacuum. With the hospital on the tail end of two major, multi-year fundraising projects with the CT Scan and Room Renovation Fund, the time is definitely right for a new major community project to come to prominence.

Whether or not that could happen will depend on the city’s willingness to review and revise the old plan and partner with community members and user groups to tackle this monumental but worthy challenge.

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