$30M needed to build new home for Prince George Spruce Kings, but will taxpayers be willing to foot the bill?
City already facing backlash for spending on new pool, firehall and other civic buildings
British Columbia's top Junior A hockey team may need a new home, but with Prince George taxpayers already footing the bill for a new swimming pool and firehall, it's unclear how much enthusiasm they'll have for another spending project.
The Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (formerly the Coliseum) has long been home ice for the Prince George Spruce Kings. The team finished finished first in the 2018/19 B.C. Hockey League and second in this year's national RBC Cup.
But at 61 years old, the arena needs $11 million in repairs, including a new roof, floor and heating and cooling systems.
"It's fairly archaic," Dave Dyer, the city's manager of engineering and public works, told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.
Dyer said long-term, the costs of repairing and maintaining the arena — which needs a new floor, roof and heating and cooling system — could exceed the price of simply building a new one.
Dyer said the cost of a new arena will be at least $29.5 million and likely even higher.
Should the city pursue a new arena, it would be the latest in a series of investments replacing aging infrastructure in the downtown core.
In 2017, taxpayers approved a $50 million plan to build a new downtown pool and firehall using money borrowed from the Municipal Finance Authority.
That decision came under increased scrutiny this year when it was revealed another $32 million was needed for other infrastructure repairs, which is also coming from the Municipal Finance Authority.
Resident Phil Beaulieu helped organize a grassroots group called "Enough Already City of PG!" which targets what members view as irresponsible spending.
"There is a lot of frustration in the community," Beaulieu told CBC in January.
Members of the group's public Facebook page expressed that frustration after Dyer's CBC interview aired on Tuesday.
"The constant barrage of spending needs appears so disjointed," wrote Jeremy Campbell. "Is it ever going to stop?" wrote Rosie Nich.
Dyer acknowledged those concerns during his interview.
"We're not bringing great news," he said. "Every time we come, we're talking about dollars and aging infrastructure."
He also pointed to the lack of population growth in the city as a challenge, as it means the tax base hasn't significantly increased over the past two decades.
Rich hockey history
Elsewhere, local hockey fans said they'd be sad to see the arena go.
Opened in 1958, it still maintains much of its original design. Former BCHL linesman Tim Renneberg wrote: "Most fun I ever had... was Saturday night in that barn when it was packed to the rafters."
"There's something really special about watching a game in there with 2,000 other screaming fans that just isn't found in the newer arenas," replied James Doyle, a local photographer whose photos documents the Spruce Kings' most recent season.
Dyer said with roughly 350,000 visitors a year, the arena is one of the more popular city facilities.
Still one of my favourite rinks ever. So much more character in that old wooden beast than in all the new concrete, steel and plastic buildings. Most fun I ever had as a BCHL linesman was Saturday night in that barn when it was packed to the rafters.—@DogBoyBlue
There's something that feels so fake in modern hockey arenas. All the production value and gimmicks to draw in people really just feel wrong. Spruce Kings games straight up feel more like hockey than Cougars games and the arena is a big part of that.—@S_Horianopoulos
No decision yet
The future of the arena, along with other infrastructure projects identified by city staff, has been forwarded to the city's finance and audit committee for consideration.
Dyer said that committee has tough decisions ahead, as many other investments in civic infrastructure are needed.
"We're going to be needing about $4.6 million a year in addition to what we already have approved," he said.
"So it's a tall challenge for the group to look into."