Though hockey fans consider them the best seats in the house, a row of chairs in the Nelson and District Community Centre arena will soon be removed to create more concourse space.
The 65 chairs that currently form the top row on the east side of the arena will be taken out early next month, reducing the total number of seats to 1,335.
NDCC recreation manager Eric Bientjes said removing the chairs will allow more room for walkers and joggers who regularly use the concourse for exercise, free of charge.
“It’s a popular place for seniors and mothers pushing strollers to come and walk indoors, especially in the winter,” said Bientjes, noting it’s also used for NDCC fitness classes and people running stairs. “The chairs, how they are now, create a bottle neck for these activities.”
Removing the seats will increase the walking space on the east side of the concourse by 30 per cent, which Bientjes explained will allow two mothers to push their strollers side-by-side.
But Nelson Leafs head coach Frank Maida isn’t happy about the seats coming out.
“We have season ticket holder that are disappointed,” he said. “Once the seats are removed they’ll probably never go back.”
The top row is popular for hockey fans because it allows spectators to see over the glass, while also allowing an unobstructed view of the corners of the rink.
Maida was disappointed that the Leafs weren’t involved in the consultation process.
“We were never asked what we thought of this, we were just told this was happening,” he said.
Bientjes said the decision was made by the recreation commission.
“We knew the answer we would get from the Leafs if we asked them,” he said, explaining they had to weigh the hockey team’s disappointment against the benefit to other facility users.
During peak winter months, as many as 150 people recreate on the concourse each day. The recreation commission is also considering the the idea of investing in a more suitable walking surface for the concourse, which is currently just bare concrete, but Bientjes doubts they could do it without charging a user fee.
“We’d have to recoup the cost of improving the flooring, and at this point we want to keep this a free place to drop in,” he said. “We consider it a public service. It’s the only place [in Nelson] for people to walk indoors, besides the mall.”