British Columbia

Repair or replace? Historic Okanagan arena nearing end of its life

The City of Penticton, B.C., is contemplating the fate of the 66-year-old Memorial Arena, which is in desperate need of an estimated $13.5 million in repairs.

Memorial Arena saw hockey greats Brett Hull, Paul Kariya and Duncan Keith skate on its ice as junior players

Memorial Arena in Penticton, B.C., is in need of $13.5 million dollars in repairs. (Google Street View)

Hockey stars and legends like Paul Kariya, Brett Hull and Duncan Keith crafted their skills on the ice surface at Memorial Arena in Penticton, B.C., during their time in junior hockey.

But 66 years of hockey history in the building could be nearing an end.

The City of Penticton is contemplating the fate of the arena, which is in desperate need of millions of dollars in repairs.

"Memorial arena is aging, it's near the end of its usable life," said consultant Joan Kleb in a report to Penticton city council this week.

$13.5M to fix, $16M to replace

The mayor and councillors are trying to decide what to do with the structure — repair it at a cost of $13.5 million, or replace it for $16 million.

The city is assembling an arena task force to take a closer look at the options.

Former professional hockey player and current Penticton resident Larry Lund saw the first hockey game played at Memorial Arena in 1951.

Lund then played there himself before going on to join the Houston Aeros with the World Hockey Association.

"I spent a lot of time in Memorial Arena and had a lot of good memories," Lund said.

"I really can't imagine driving down Power Street and Vees Avenue and not seeing that building there."

'Such a beautiful place'

Retired facilities foreman Dave Matser is also contemplating life in Penticton without the arena.

"Our family has some pretty deep roots in that building," Matser said in an interview with CBC's Radio West.

Matser ran the building for 23 years and watched his sons grow up playing minor hockey on its ice.

Former facilities foreman Dave Matser is hoping Penticton decides to pay for repairs to restore Memorial Arena. (Dave Matser)

"The first thing that should be noted is that it is a memorial arena. It was built to honor our past veterans," he said

"The other things that are special about Memorial are its structure. It has a really open look to it when you walk into the arena. It's all built with arches."

He hopes city council will decide to repair the arena and preserve its heritage.

"I've talked to people from all over the world [who] are almost speechless when they enter that building," he said.

"It is so grand and just such a beautiful place."

With files from Jaimie Kehler and CBC's Radio West