Nova Scotia

Emera donates $500K to save Halifax oval

Emera Inc. has announced a donation of $500,000 to keep the outdoor skating oval on the Halifax Common.

Emera Inc. has announced a donation of $500,000 to keep the outdoor skating oval on the Halifax Common.

A news conference was held at the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday morning to announce the donation.

But it's a fraction of the cost to construct a permanent facility.

A city staff report estimated it would cost $4.3 million to build and $400,000 and operate annually.

Bennett said Emera's announcement is meant to be top of mind for city council.

"We wanted to be sure the councillors knew about this offer before they begin their deliberations in the coming days," said Bennett.

The 400-metre skating track was built to host speed-skating competitions during the 2011 Canada Winter Games. The oval was used before and after the games for free public skating.

The original plan, after the Games and the winter season finished, was to dismantle the track and distribute the equipment to various facilities around Nova Scotia, but public support for keeping the oval has made municipal politicians hold off.

The donation is a boost after a setback several days ago.

Goodlife Fitness pulled its commitment of $200,000 on the heels of a larger pledge from Molson Coors of $400,000.

City councillors will vote on the future of the oval on Tuesday.

Downtown Halifax councillor Dawn Sloane said she isn't sure how it will go.

"If this dies on the council floor there's going to be serious repercussions for those who don't vote for it," Sloane said Saturday.

About 100,000 people are estimated to have skated on the oval over the winter.

"I'm getting calls from Middle Sackville asking me to save the oval. I'm getting calls from Yarmouth asking me when would be the best to use the oval around Christmas-time," said Sloane.

"This incredible offer by Emera reflects a major community leadership initiative," said Dr. John Gillis, the director of the Save the Oval campaign.

"We are especially proud that two large companies, Emera and Molson have put the project and the community first by working together to save the oval," said Andrew Feenstra, the Save the Oval Association president.

Feenstra was joined at the announcement by Rob Bennett, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, a subsidiary of Emera.

The Worlds Legacy Fund is ready to donate $100,000 left over from the World Figure Skating Championships held in Halifax in 1990.

The association claimed that 84 per cent of local residents either completely or mostly support keeping the oval.

The donation from Emera now means that more than $1 million has been pledged.