British Columbia

'Early mornings and late nights': Surrey hockey parents want council to address ice time shortage

Last year, Surrey city council put off building an already-approved rink in Cloverdale. Now parents hope they'll reconsider, saying the ice time shortage is so bad some kids are quitting the sport.

A $44-million new rink already approved for Cloverdale was put off last year to save money

Riley Hanberg, who coaches the Surrey Falcons hockey team, wants a new arena in Surrey's Cloverdale neighbourhood. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

If you're ever looking for Riley Hanberg, the rink is a good place to start.

All three of his children — ages 10, 13 and 16 — play hockey in Surrey, B.C. His son's practices often start at 5:15 a.m., and his eldest daughter, whom he coaches, plays many of her games after 9:00 p.m.

"There's a lot of time at the rink, for sure," he said, laughing.

"A lot of early mornings and late nights."

Hanberg is one of many hockey parents who was crushed last year when the city postponed construction on a $44-million arena in Cloverdale.

And while he's sticking it out, he says other parents are so frustrated their kids are quitting hockey.

The Cloverdale Sport & Ice Complex was one of several infrastructure projects Surrey city council postponed last year in an effort to cut costs. (City of Surrey)

Rink iced to save money

The Cloverdale rink was part a much larger belt-tightening by Mayor Doug McCallum's Safe Surrey coalition when they postponed already-approved projects in the city budget last fall.

All the current members of that slate voted down the new rink in an attempt to reduce city debt.

At the time, more than 100 people attended a rally in opposition of council's decision, arguing the nine sheets of ice that the municipality operates at its five arenas are woefully inadequate for a city with more than 500,000 people.

Councillor Linda Annis says the Cloverdale rink should be a top priority.

"We need a new arena there, full stop," she said.

"We've got the youngest population anywhere in the Lower Mainland and we need to get more recreation facilities built."

A 2015 study conducted by the city of Coquitlam into ice availability in Metro Vancouver found Surrey and White Rock had one arena for every 34,000 residents compared to the regional average of one arena for every 22,000 residents.

Young hockey players rallied outside the Cloverdale Arena in December, 2018. (Meera Bains/CBC)

'Numbers are dwindling'

There is one brand new ice facility in the city, where Riley Hanberg's daughter, Grace, practiced on Wednesday night.

At 16, Grace Hanberg is just as busy as her dad.

When she's not playing or practicing with the Surrey Falcons, she's coaching a novice girls team or trying to keep up with homework from her pre-calculus class.

"It gets pretty hard," she said. "You have to buckle down."

Hanberg is impressed with the new facility — the North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex, which has three ice sheets. The arena replaces two sheets of ice at the old North Surrey Recreation Centre, which is permanently closing on December 22.

The city says the net gain of one sheet of ice creates more than 75 hours per week of ice time, which should help cut down on early and late practice times for young athletes.

Riley Hanberg says that's not enough to address the city's ice shortage and he knows parents who are pulling their children out of hockey because of the difficult schedules.

"I think it actually hinders people from joining the sport," he said.

"The numbers are dwindling and a lot of it has to do with the hours."

The young hockey players held homemade signs and chanted 'Save our rinks.' (Meera Bains/CBC)

Preliminary budget coming

Councillor Annis says she will continue to push for the new arena at meetings that will happen behind closed doors until a preliminary budget is ready to be released to the public, which will happen in the coming weeks.

She believes council can find funding for the project, even though the policing budget will increase by about 11 percent to pay for Surrey's transition from the RCMP to a municipal force.

Councillor Doug Elford, who is part of McCallum's team, says he can't comment on discussions that take place at in-camera meetings but no final decisions will be made until council hears from the community.

"There are demands on our recreation and infrastructure throughout the city not just in that neighborhood," he said.

"We'd like everybody from all parts of Surrey to come out and voice their opinions and contribute to the budget process."

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