PEI

New hope for Simmons Arena as 3rd ice surface at UPEI deemed not feasible

A third ice surface at the Bell Aliant Centre in Charlottetown is not feasible, the board of directors of Capital Area Recreation Inc. has determined.

CARI board says too many obstacles to make 3rd ice pad physically and financially worthwhile

The City of Charlottetown had hoped to have a third ice pad at the Bell Aliant Centre at UPEI in time for the 2023 Canada Games. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

A third ice surface at the Bell Aliant Centre in Charlottetown is not feasible, the board of directors of Capital Area Recreation Inc., the group that operates the facility, has determined.

The City of Charlottetown had seen a third ice pad at the UPEI complex as a potential replacement for the aging Simmons Arena in the residential neighbourhood of Brighton.

However, after engaging the assistance of an engineer and architect, the CARI board found there would be too many obstacles to make a third ice service financially and physically feasible.

$4-6 million in additional costs

Board chair Shawn Murphy said district heating infrastructure would have to be re-routed, the main electrical grid servicing the university would have to be looped around the perimeter road, and the expansion would require additional parking to meet the city's parking bylaw. Murphy said it would have added up to $6 million to the cost of the project.

"It's one of those issues, it probably might have been able to be handled. But cumulatively, we felt we couldn't continue," he said. 

Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown says the 'stars are in line' to move forward with the Simmons Sports Complex. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"Anything's physically possible if you have enough money. But it was getting pretty wobbly in the last month, and some of the stakeholders weren't as supportive as they were. So for a whole host of reasons, the board decided we would not proceed further."

The decision offers new hope to some community groups who have been rallying to save Simmons Arena, or have it demolished and a new arena built at the site.

I think all the stars are in line to make this Simmons Sports Complex go forward.— Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown

Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said he hopes council revisits a 2014 master plan to redevelop the Simmons site with a new arena. He said there is a tight deadline to get an arena built for the 2023 Canada Winter Games, which was the hope for the Bell Aliant site.

He said the city could still potentially qualify for the same federal funding options, including a climate change mitigation fund, at Simmons.

"I think all the stars are in line to make this Simmons Sports Complex go forward, at least move the ball down the field," Brown said.

Mark Fisher, a member of the group Friends of Simmons, welcomed the news.

"We never thought a third ice pad at [Bell Aliant Centre] was really a solution. It might've been a solution to other people's needs. But for Charlottetown Minor Hockey and other user groups at Simmons, Simmons itself, on the property it sits right now, is essentially what needs to be done."

More from CBC P.E.I.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.

With files from Steve Bruce

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