City pledges support for new arena at U of A South Campus

The University of Alberta's South Campus arena project got a show of support from the city on Monday. The city says it would be willing to contribute $20 million towards building a new arena, with some conditions.

Committee supports pitching $20 million towards building a new arena, with some conditions

A committee of city council is recommending Edmonton contribute up to $20 million to a proposed twin-ice arena at the U of A's South Campus. (University of Alberta)

The University of Alberta's South Campus arena project got a show of support from the city on Monday.

Council's community and public services committee agreed to write a letter of support saying it would be willing to contribute $20 million towards building a new arena, with some conditions.

The development, which would cost $65 million, would include the building of a twin ice sheet complex at the university's South Campus, connected to the Saville community sports centre.

One rink would have seating for 3,000 spectators. The other would be a community ice sheet with seating for 400.

The facility would be used by both the university's teams and the public, although the majority of the ice time would go to the public.

The city's contribution would be the same amount it usually spends to build a new single-ice surface arena.

"It's a great deal for the city," Coun. Michael Walters said. "The need is pretty clear."

He added the arena project fits in well with the city's 10-year rink strategy.

It's a great deal for the city. The need is pretty clear.- Councillor Michael Walters

Kerry Mummery, dean of the U of A's faculty of physical education and recreation, said this type of facility is needed for both the community and the university, particularly because of the increase in the number of women playing hockey.

"We only have a single-pad ice arena to service a university that's as large as some of the smaller cities in the province," he said.

"It's very unusual for a Canadian university to really be this low."

'No such thing as free parking'

The major stumbling block is parking at the new rinks.

The university plans to build a $16-million parking structure at South Campus for all the new users the rinks will attract, but it can't pay to build and operate this parking area using the public money it receives to educate students.

"There's no such thing as free parking," Mummery said, adding that all parking has to be paid for somehow.

He suggested a modest charge of about $2 to access the new parking garage.

He said there are already problems with parking by the Saville Centre from people who use it as a park and ride for the LRT.

"We have multiple user bases of people who want to park there for low or no charge who may or may not be users of the facility," Mummery said.

If there isn't going to be a charge for parking, it should be the city, not the university, that bears the cost of operating the parking garage, Mayor Don Iveson said..

"Increasingly, South Campus is like a mini downtown. Giving away parking for free may be challenging," Iveson said.

The city's support for the funding is subject to the university coming up with a way to handle those parking problems.

It's also subject to confirmation of other funding. The university has asked the province for $25 million.

Construction of the rinks could start as early as 2017, with completion by about 2020.