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Halifax Forum could close under new arena proposal

Two major recreation projects are being contemplated for the Halifax region, with municipal staff recommending two new arenas be built to replace a number of aging facilities, including the Halifax Forum and the Centennial Arena.

City staff recommending 2 major recreation projects to replace aging facilities

Players wait to hit the ice Friday at the Halifax Forum Complex. A city report is recommending a new arena by built in Windsor Park. (CBC)

Two major recreation projects are being contemplated for the Halifax region, with municipal staff recommending two new arenas be built to replace a number of aging facilities, including the Halifax Forum and the Centennial Arena.

City councillors with the audit and finance committee will meet Thursday to discuss the proposal and are being asked to recommend it to regional council.

While the prospect of new arenas is being welcomed in a city where ice time is a hot commodity, some are unhappy older facilities could be forced to shut their doors.

The chairman of the Halifax Forum Community Association says he’s "stunned" by the recommendation of city bureaucrats and vows his group will fight any attempt to close the complex.

George Findlay says the forum association submitted its own proposal to the city to build two more ice surfaces. He says the complex is heavily used by trade shows, hockey players and seniors who play bingo.

"There’s a great interest in this forum," he says. "And to see it torn down to provide a facility that’s going to take a lot of things away from senior citizens, young people who’ve grown up playing hockey here who are now adults. It just doesn’t make sense."

A report prepared by municipal staff says the city should negotiate a deal with Canadian Forces Base Halifax to build an arena with four surfaces in Windsor Park, to open in 2017.

Another arena is being eyed for Dartmouth and might be located on the Shannon Park lands. It could open by 2019.

If built, the two arenas will replace the Halifax Forum and Civic Centre, and the Devonshire, Gray, Bowles, Gerald J. Lebrun and Centennial arenas. Those facilities would be declared surplus.

The timeline for a new Dartmouth arena is lengthy, says the president of the Dartmouth Whalers Minor Hockey Association.

Sean McKenna says there won’t be enough ice time in Dartmouth if one of the current arenas has to shut down before a new facility can be built.

"You take one rink out of the inventory and it’s a problem," he says.

Building a new arena in Windsor Park will cost an estimated $33.8 million, the report says. The price tag for a new arena at Shannon Park is estimated at $43 million.

The report says some of those costs will be offset by the sale of surplus properties and the city should also try to tap other levels of government and the private sector for money.

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