Nova Scotia

Halifax council approves permanent skating oval

Municipal councillors voted Tuesday to keep the skating oval in the Halifax Common.

$5.7M to make permanent

Skaters could use the track for free before and after Canada Winter Games competitions. (CBC)

Municipal councillors voted Tuesday to keep the skating oval in the Halifax Common.

The decision came after a four-hour debate about several issues surrounding the oval, including its cost, location and possible sponsorships.

Regional staff and a steering committee had recommended a permanent 400-metre skating track in the park. The projected cost to build the oval is $4.3 million next year and an extra $1.4 million in 2013. It would cost about $400,000 every year to operate.

The cost of the outdoor rink will mean an increase in the municipality's tax bill to property owners. A detailed funding plan will be decided in April's budget meetings.

"We can just put in another piece of infrastructure in which everyone will forget in five seconds, or we can build something which not only gets our kids off the couch, away from a computer and actually out doing something," said Coun. Dawn Sloane, in arguing for the oval.

"I've never received as many calls that were so positive as what I received around the oval and the desire for people to want to keep it," said Coun. Brad Johns.

In the end the vote was clearly in favour, and only councillors Gloria McCluskey and Darren Fisher voted against making the oval a permanent fixture.

The Canada Winter Games oval was popular with skaters this winter. It was built to host speed-skating competitions, but was open to the public before and after the Games.

A group lobbying for the rink, Save the Oval Association, claimed 84 per cent of local residents either completely or mostly support keeping the oval.

But Beverly Miller, co-chair of Friends of the Halifax Common, doesn't like the price or location.

"The question is should it be the oval, which is huge and far in excess of what's needed for your average recreational skating facility, and also should it be here on the Common?" Miller said.

Miller said green space is already limited in the park. She also doesn't want to see the Common become too commercialized.

Several businesses and groups have pledged more than $1 million in funding to keep the oval.

Emera Inc., parent company of Nova Scotia Power Inc., is donating $500,000, while Molson Coors is giving $400,000. Another $100,000 would come from a legacy fund from the World Figure Skating Championships held in Halifax in 1990.

The original plan was to dismantle the track and distribute the equipment to various facilities around the province.