Some Saint-Lambert citizens are asking their municipal government to scrap plans to destroy an arena that has been standing for decades.

Thousands of people have skated and played sports on the ice including two NHL hockey players.

The Eric Sharp arena was built in 1966 for Expo 67 and has since been plagued with structural and accessibility problems.

The arena is set to be torn down in April and replaced by a new $10.8 million arena.

People who oppose the rink's demolition have been circulating a petition to stall the reconstruction.

According to Steven Parry, who's been playing hockey at the rink for more than 40 years, the building needs a significant amount of work but should not be replaced.

"Granted, the arena does need renovations," said Parry. "I mean, we'd like to bring it up to the standard of a newer rink by fixing first and foremost the ice quality. So the refrigeration equipment needs to be changed."

He said the dressing rooms and the drain systems should also be changed.

Parry said the arena's rustic cedar roof is a pivotal part of the rink's identity and heritage.

"Obviously, some parents of hockey players and skaters would like a new facility. They don't see the point of keeping an older structure," said Parry. "But nothing really changes, with the cedar roof and concrete walls, I mean, what they're proposing is to put up a much less social and fun arena. They want a warehouse-type arena."

Philippe Brunet, the mayor of Saint-Lambert, a city located on Montreal's south shore, said the Quebec government has approved a $4,451,000 loan so that city council could move ahead with construction of a new arena.

In a call to CBC News, the education, leisure and sports ministry said the city's file has been submitted but not approved. A spokesperson with the ministry said officials are still analyzing the loan request.

The rest of the money for the project will come from the city.

The mayor said the new arena will keep some of the original features.

The Quebec government imposes three requirements on sporting infrastructures:

  • The building must meet emerging needs in the town or area.
  • The grant must be used to improve the functionality and longevity of existing structure.
  • The building must maintain Quebec's sporting heritage.

Parry said taking down the Eric Sharp arena would not meet the heritage mandate. He said Louis Bégin and Boston Bruins coach Steve Kasper once played there and a multitude of commercials were filmed at the arena because of its unique architecture,.

Brunet said the building would meet the government's requirements.

"The new structure with a new wooden roof will definitely meet that criteria in a way of preservation of heritage. We're re-using some of the beams in the new structure," he said.

If the petition fails to stall the reconstruction, the city plans to open the brand new building at the end of next year.