Charlottetown, February 9, 2018 – A coalition of six minor sport user groups weighed in today regarding new arena facility options for the City of Charlottetown. In December, a task force commissioned by Charlottetown’s City Council released its report regarding arenas and a possible new multi-use facility.
The minor sport groups say that while they agree on the need for renewal of the City’s aging arena infrastructure, their main concerns were not addressed by the task force’s recommendations to build a new Multi-Use Sports and Events Centre with two ice pads to replace two of the City’s aging arenas.
The sport groups, which include the city’s minor hockey, figure skating, ringette and speed skating associations, as well as other arena users, is calling on City Council to add one net new ice surface and for one of the new ice surfaces to be built to International (Olympic) dimensions. An additional ice surface would bring Charlottetown up to five primarily community-use ice pads, plus one multi-use sports and event centre (currently the Eastlink Centre). The Olympic-sized ice surface would be the first in the province.
Brian Matheson, President of Sherwood Parkdale Rural Minor Hockey Association, said that an additional ice surface is desperately needed by minor sport users. “Growth in each of our sports, coupled with the growth in the overall population in Charlottetown has meant that some minor sports are turning participants away and all of our groups want to rent more icetime than we can currently access in Charlottetown”.
The groups say that they are increasingly relying on icetime from outside the city to run their regular programs, even with the limitations on registrations in some cases. They also say they’re foregoing event hosting opportunities due to the shortage of icetime.
The coalition pointed to population growth in Charlottetown and also cited the Province’s immigration plans. “Considering historical population growth rates and the Province’s immigration targets, it is very clear that one net new ice surface is needed just to keep the ratio of population to ice surfaces where it is today, over the next ten years,” said Mike James, President of Charlottetown Ringette. The groups also referred to current statistics showing that Charlottetown’s per capita number of ice surfaces is much lower than the rest of PEI and also at or below comparable figures for other similar centres around the Maritimes.
According to the group, based on the 2016 Census, Charlottetown also has a higher proportion of residents under 20 years old than any other urban area in the Maritimes and a broader range of ice sport offerings than most communities. The minor sport coalition says these factors also help to explain the high user demand that they see. Colleen Dunn,
President of the Charlottetown Skating Club, said “We’re not looking to stay where we are today in terms of ice availability, because it isn’t enough, but the only way to meet at least that minimum level of service over the next few years is with one additional ice surface. City Council needs to factor this into any decisions about new arenas.”
Keith Ford, President of the Charlottetown Minor Hockey Association, agreed, saying “From our perspective, everyone knows that some of our existing facilities are aging and rapidly reaching end-of- life. When new facilities are being built, adding an additional ice surface should be a key part of that overall plan, given the current issues we’re seeing.”
As for the International (Olympic) sized ice surface, the minor sport coalition says it was pleased to see that the task force report said consideration should be given to this. “Our user groups fully endorse Olympic sized ice. It is needed for some sports and can be well utilized by all of our sports. It is also a Canada Games hosting requirement and with the Canada Winter Games coming to PEI in 2023, it would make sense to have an Olympic-sized surface in Charlottetown. It will also open up additional event hosting opportunities in both figure skating and speed skating,” said Laurie Godfrey, Sherwood Parkdale Skating Club President. “When any new ice surfaces are built, we want to see one of them built to Olympic dimensions.”
New Olympic-sized ice pads have recently opened in Dartmouth and Fredericton, with several more slated for opening across the country in 2018 and 2019.
The minor sport coalition has sent letters to both City Council and to the Province. They say that they’ve requested a meeting with Charlottetown’s Mayor and Council representatives and say they’re looking forward to those discussions. “We believe we have a strong case that is well supported with good data. We expect that Mayor Lee and our City Councillors will be very interested in what we have to say,” said Jenn Nickerson, President of Speed Skate PEI.