New Fort McMurray arena on ice till population picks up

Wood Buffalo won’t build another hockey arena because the municipality doesn’t have the numbers to justify it.

Municipality estimates Wood Buffalo population fell by 16 per cent

Plans to expand Fort McMurray's hockey ice surfaces are on hold. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Fort McMurray's declining population following the wildfire has led the municipality to delay the construction of a new hockey arena.

This week Wood Buffalo municipal council voted to delay construction of the Northside Recreation Centre and twin arena.

"Given the low demand and the usage of rural ice rinks there is concern that adding two new ice surfaces at this time would reduce usage and revenue streams in the existing rinks," said community services director Carole Bouchard.

The arena was proposed when the city's population was expected to grow, but May's wildfire and the downturn in the oil town's economy has prompted many to leave, Bouchard said.

The wildfire forced one of Canada's largest-ever evacuations as over 80,000 people fled Fort McMurray. Some evacuees were only allowed to return to their homes in November.

The municipality estimates 88,228 people lived in the region in 2015. Today it sets the population at 74,000 and it's unsure when the number will rebound.

About $9.5 million has already been spent on design work.