The Dryden Observer

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EDITORIAL: Missed opportunity to insert arena into local fundraising

Chris Marchand

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

Interestingly — well, to me at least — I wrote a column just over a year ago that suggested a community fundraising campaign might be the only path towards addressing a growing laundry list of concerns at Dryden Memorial Arena.

It’s also been about a year since Dryden City Council opted to reform a user group advisory council to facilitate some back and forth communication.

So what’s happened in a year?

Aside from the Recreation Advisory Committee Chair Kent Sinclair’s December report to council, which re-iterated the same unaddressed issues we’ve all heard before about the 36 year-old facility, the situation seems to have remain unchanged.

That’s not surprising or unreasonable, given the extreme financial constraints facing the City of Dryden. In the budget year ahead, as the city can no longer defer repaying its debts to keep some cash-flow handy, the chances of a fix-up seem even more remote.

In an age where Dryden Regional Health Centre needs to pull millions of charitable dollars out of the community to purchase essential equipment like a CT Scan, an ultrasound machine, or to renovate rooms, it seems naive to believe that anything less than a similar charitable effort on behalf of the public will be required to make a few change rooms for female hockey players among other things.

The past 12 months represent a significant missed opportunity to position an arena project for matching funds through something like the Canada 150 Fund or other community infrastructure programs for shovel-ready projects.

The challenge with these programs is often that you need to be ready to fund the local share when they are announced and, it stands to reason, the municipality is no closer to funding an arena project than it was 12 months ago.

The great lesson illustrated by the ‘Light The Ball Diamonds’ campaign, as well as the more recent Eagles on Track campaign is that these things are completely possible to those with a solid plan and the willingness to commit their efforts to a concerted local campaign.

The arena itself is a product of such a fundraising effort, why should fixing it be any different. — Chris Marchand

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