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Hamilton street to be transformed into permanent hockey rink

By the time the Victoria Day long weekend rolls around, the City of Hamilton will have transformed a section of Roxborough Avenue into a fully functioning ball hockey rink.

New rink on Roxborough Avenue to offer ball hockey in the summer and ice hockey in the winter

Ozz Stiffl, 11, tries to take the ball off his father at Queen Mary Elementary School on Sunday afternoon. (Chris Seto/CBC)

By the time the Victoria Day long weekend rolls around, the City of Hamilton will have transformed a section of Roxborough Avenue into a fully functioning ball hockey rink.

The section of street between Graham Avenue North and Province Street North has been closed to traffic since 2014, linking the parking lot at Queen Mary School to Honourable Bob Mackenzie Park. But the 80 metre strip has largely remained empty since then.

By mid-May, coloured lines will be painted onto the road and an eight-foot-high temporary chain link fence will be erected. According to design plans posted on the city's website, the rink will be 11m by 34m in size, roughly a quarter of the size of a standard NHL-sized hockey rink.

The temporary rink is expected to remain up until a permanent rink can be built in its place. A consultant has already been hired by the city to design the facility, which is expected to have the ability to convert from a ball hockey zone in the summer to an ice hockey pad in the winter.

A section of Roxborough Avenue will soon be transformed into a ball hockey rink. (Chris Seto/CBC)

The idea to transform the street into a permanent street hockey/ice hockey venue came from Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla.

"This puts a whole new spin on 'take back the street,'" he said in a phone interview on Sunday. He called this project the first of its kind in Canada — taking a permanent hockey rink and building it in the middle of a city street.

"The area itself is going through a significant renaissance," he said. The project is part of a push from the city to "incorporate more pedestrian, cycling and activity-based capital expenditures."

He said growing up in Hamilton, he was an active street hockey player. "That's all we did," he said.

"When I was a kid, I would have probably been out there 24-7... had we had an opportunity to have such a rink ourselves."

Plans for the the proposed ball/ice hockey rink on Roxborough Avenue. (City of Hamilton)

Encouraging an active lifestyle 

"This particular development, I think, will tie into really trying to encourage kids to become more active," he said.

When it's constructed, he said he hopes to see both children and adults using the facility. He said he'll be out there for sure.

Bob Penner and a small group were playing ball hockey in the parking lot of Queen Mary School on Sunday afternoon. He said he's excited for the new rink to be built.

"That is a smart idea," he said about the construction of the rink. It will help the neighbourhood by encouraging more foot traffic and keeping the area safe from crime. It will also give younger people something to do, he said.

"What do kids have to do here now, seriously?" 

Penner, 55, said he and a dozen or so friends and their children have come together in the school parking lot every Sunday for the past few years to play a game of ball hockey. When the temporary rink is built, he said the group will relocate there.

The boards will help keep them from chasing the ball down the street, he said, and pointing to a wide ledge at the schools entrance, he said "we've lost quite a few balls up there." 

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