Ottawa

Hockey volunteers worry about possible Ottawa rink closures

The organizers and volunteers behind Ottawa's minor hockey teams are worried the city doesn't have the full picture as it considers closing rinks due to declining ice rentals.

They're concerned travelling further to play would hurt enrolment, at-risk youth

Players take to the ice during practice at the Bernard Grandmaître Arena in Vanier. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The organizers and volunteers behind Ottawa's minor hockey teams are worried the city doesn't have the full picture as it considers closing rinks due to declining ice rentals and maintenance costs.

The city is considering closing or re-purposing some arenas — mostly aging arenas in the urban core — that might be at the end of their lifecycle.

Shawn Barber, a coach with the Ottawa Centre Minor Hockey Association, said he's worried it could lead to the core being underserved.

"I would not be pleased to have my local rink torn down and have to travel out to beyond the Greenbelt or even the inner suburbs to take my kid to a hockey rink," Barber said.

Shawn Barber, coach with the Ottawa Centre Minor Hockey Association, says he would support arena closures if it meant improved facilities replaced them, but he's worried the core may be left behind. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

He said he'd support closing facilities if they have adequate modern replacements.

City staff told an advisory committee Tuesday they would like to move toward more multi-pad arenas since they're more cost effective in terms of staff and capital maintenance.

'A bigger challenge' for recruitment

Barber is also worried it could increase the already high cost of enrolling a kid in hockey.

Paul Ross, a vice-president of Hockey Eastern Ontario Minor, said considering closing arenas in the core is disappointing.

"That's directly going to effect our youth that are at risk. We try to get those youth involved in sports and keep them in a location where they're going to be safe," Ross said.

"By closing those facilities, that's creating a bigger challenge."

Paul Ross, a vice-president of Hockey Eastern Ontario Minor, said if the city closes arenas in the urban core it could compromise efforts to recruit at-risk youth. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

He said the city should be helping organizations like HEO Minor as it tries to recruit players, especially new Canadians. 

One solution for attracting rentals in off-peak hours could be to lower prices for certain times, Ross said. 

Committee meeting next month

Craig Shouldice, the registrar for HEO Minor, said there has been a downward trend of about two per cent a year in the region.

Shouldice used the example of the West End Hockey League, which he says has experienced a fluctuation in members over the past 15 years, but has since recovered.

"If we start closing facilities, we're going to be in the position of trying to find ice for these associations which are starting to grow again," Shouldice said.

He said that league currently uses three single-pad arenas — Barbara Ann Scott, J.A. Dulude and Tom Brown — and if those were closed it force people to go to Nepean or further.

"The families are going to pay more for travel, they're going to have to go further to get the same amount of hockey," Shouldice said.

When the time comes to close arenas, city staff said they weigh each one against the five nearest facilities and will ask the community for feedback on other possible uses for the buildings.

The city's community and protective services committee will receive the staff proposal next month. 

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