RDCK takes over Civic Centre rink management

The aging venue was in need of new leadership after the Nelson Regional Sports Council backed out earlier this month.

The Nelson Regional Sports Council has decided to dissolve once it ceases management of the Civic Centre rink in June.

The Civic Centre rink will stay open for another season. Its future beyond that remains murky.

A recommendation for the Regional District of Central Kootenay to take over the management of the city-owned rink was given the go-ahead at a recreation commission meeting Tuesday, pending approval from the RDCK’s board of directors. That means the local government body will take over all the Civic Centre’s revenue and expenses, with day-to-day operations contracted out.

The Civic Centre needed new management after the Nelson Regional Sports Council alerted the city that after 11 years it’s backing out of an agreement to run the rink, which has suffered from declining revenue since 2010.

Rural Nelson director Ramona Faust said she was satisfied with the direction the meeting set for the 81-year-old venue.

“We love these historic facilities and no one wants to see them sit empty,” said Faust. “Certainly no one wants to see them sacrificed when they are architecturally pretty sound. It’s a lot of money to fix them up but in the grand scheme of replacing something like that for community use, no matter what the use is, it would be an amazing undertaking to have to replace something like that once you let it go.”

There was a united front toward keeping the rink open for the 2016-17 season, but commission members differed on how best to move forward.

The agenda included a recommendation by Nelson and District Community Complex manager Marty Benson to create a recreation co-ordinator position. That person would oversee a task force made up of city, RDCK and community representatives to, among other things, study the rink’s feasibility and review existing policies such as the NDCC taking priority bookings.

However, the position’s annual expense of $72,800 and a job description chair Val Warmington referred to as nebulous caused the commission to refer a decision on the recommendation to their next meeting on June 21.

Nelson city councillor Janice Morrison was the lone commissioner to oppose the referral. She said she’s frustrated by the lack of progress following the RDCK’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan published in 2012 that cites, among other things, a need to address the Civic Centre rink’s overall maintenance and its lack of summer use.

Still, Morrison said the meeting was positive.

“If we’re just talking about the ice, I think we’ve seen today there is a commitment to run it,” she said. “And yes, it probably will be on a year-by-year basis in regards to the Civic Centre but I think this was a big step forward. This is one of the things we’ve been looking for, at least for the operational management of the building to fall under the RDCK. I don’t want to dismiss that.

“This is a big step going forward.”

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