The Civic Centre rink isn’t going anywhere in the short term and Mayor Deb Kozak is asking for patience as city council begins to consider the facility’s future.
Kozak said Thursday that a request for additional funding from the Nelson Regional Sports Council to help operate the 85-year-old rink isn’t necessarily going to lead to the venue’s closure.
“I don’t think people should panic,” said Kozak. “Nothing major is going to happen at this juncture. We’re going to get our facts and our ducks in order in a way that’s going to work for the community.”
The sport council’s request cited a decrease in ice rentals as the prime reason for a $40,000 decline in revenue since 2010.
Kozak said she wasn’t surprised by the request for additional funding – the city has given the sport council $55,000 annually since 2006 to run the city-owned facility – and that the city had previously been updated on the decline in ice usage. Extensive maintenance renovations to the venue in October, which finished with part of the space being closed off from the public, also raised a red flag.
But she also added the urgency of the request Monday made the rink’s future a priority for city council.
“It needs to change,” she said. “I think the way we deliver ice recreation in the community, we need to have a look at it. We need to have a look at the larger region and the trends that are coming forward.”
Kozak said city council has asked the sports council for a proposal that includes clearer plans for the arena prior to the city’s budget being finalized.
Ideally, Kozak wants a planning document for the arena similar to the Railtown district’s revitalization project that includes input from the community as well as rural residents who visit Nelson to use the rink.
There’s also research to be done on the drop in ice usage at the rink. Kozak said the regionally operated Nelson and District Community Complex, built next door to the Civic Centre in 2005, has seen a 30 per cent increase in ice use this year. Finding out why that is, Kozak believes, will influence what happens with the Civic Centre rink.
“I don’t think we have time to take years and years to make up our minds,” said Kozak. “I’m actually grateful that [the Sports Council] said what’s going on because it’s important to know. Because it not only gives the city time to really assess what that building is and what the potential for it is, but it also turns the attention of ice users into, well, are we really using the ice in the best possible way?”