Essex, LaSalle, Lakeshore all dealing with aging arenas

Several smaller towns in Essex County are trying to decide what to do with their deteriorating old arenas.

Repair bills as high as $4.2 million, demolition costs of $200,000 all considered

Several smaller towns in Essex County are trying to decide what to do with their deteriorating old arenas. (Town of Essex)

Essex Town Council has put off making a decision on whether to spend millions of dollars to fix up its old Essex Memorial Arena.

A consulting engineer listed dozens of repairs needed to bring the 53-year-old arena up to code before it could be used for a dry use facility.

The town hasn't needed the arena since the Essex Centre Sports Complex opened three years ago.

He told council the bare minimum would cost $2.5 million dollars. In total, the arena could use $4.2 million in repairs.

The arena needs a new roof and better drainage around the outside.

"We heard from councillors who say the town is not going to be responsible for one penny of the repairs. A couple want to save the arena, if possible," Essex Mayor Ron McDermott said.

Council's decision and the engineer's recommendations frustrated user groups who would like to see the arena saved.

The Essex Ravens football club and the Essex Hurricanes soccer team want to use the arena for dry-land, indoor training. Neither club believes it will cost $2.5 million to bring the building up to code.

Glen Mills of the Ravens and Scott Pillon of the Hurricanes say they have contractors who dispute the consulting engineers claims.

The Southern Ontario Military Muster group is also frustrated.

It wants to turn the arena into a military museum and also believe it can be done much more cheaply than the $2.5 million suggested by the town's consulting engineer.

"I have to listen to an engineer, myself. They know what the building codes are," McDermott said.

He said user groups and the town's consulting engineer "need to get together to see what is exactly required."

Council wants to hear proposals from groups Aug. 11 before making a final decision.

Only the sports teams believe they might put in a report.

"Do you want to be partners with us? Do you want to buy it?" McDermott said.

LaSalle, Lakeshore arenas also on the block

The Town of LaSalle is in a situation similar that of Essex.

LaSalle opened the Vollmer Recreation Complex six years ago, and when they did, they moved out of the old LaSalle Centennial Arena.

It's being used as a road maintenance storage facility at the moment.

Terry Fink, LaSalle's Director of Culture and Recreation, says the town has two options: tear it down or sell it.

The town is leaning toward tearing it down at a cost of up to $200,000.

Fink said the rink started as an outdoor rink, then had walls added and was later capped with a roof.

He said the building has "no importance from heritage perspective."

"The real question is the structural analysis of the building," Fink said.

He said the town is routinely reviewing the building's safety.

"If we leave the building up and sell it, it is an old building and if it started to deteriorate, it may become an eye sore," Fink said.

Lakeshore will also have a decision to make in a matter of months. The town's new multi-use recreation complex opens Sept. 1.

Mayor Tom Bain tells CBC News the town has been approached by a couple of community groups interested in the old Belle River arena, which has two ice pads.

Leamington tore down it's old arena after a new complex opened there.


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