Saskatoon city council approves $3M rink funding increase

On Monday afternoon, city council voted to donate an extra $3 million to Merlis Belsher Place.

City of Saskatoon has already pledged $1M to rink at University of Saskatchewan

The timeline for construction will not be set until all funding for Merlis Belsher Place is in place. (University of Saskatchewan)

Saskatoon's city council has decided to donate an extra $3 million to Merlis Belsher Place, for a total of $4 million.

The vote passed by a count of 6-5.

Last year, the City of Saskatoon made a $1 million commitment to the proposed twin-ice facility planned for the University of Saskatchewan.

However, in January, organizers came forward and asked for more money. Fundraising chair Tim Hodgson said the facility is not receiving any grants from Ottawa or the province, and the city has "a responsibility and a duty to do more."

Clear discussion needed: Mayor Charlie Clark

In an interview on CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, Mayor Charlie Clark said the new arena could potentially postpone the need for a new city-run arena until 2022.

The last indoor rink built by the City of Saskatoon was the ACT Hockey Arena in Sutherland, which dates back to 1981.

"We need to have a really clear discussion at the debate about how, if we add more funding to this project, that there is a wide community benefit," Clark said. "It would deal with a major pressure point for minor hockey in terms of ice time and families having to travel less to get to games."

The $41-million project will include a 2,650-seat arena and will provide much needed ice time to both the U of S Huskies as well as Saskatoon Minor Hockey.

So far, private donors, including Merlis Belsher, have contributed $23.6 million to the Home Ice fundraising campaign. A number of minor hockey teams have also raised money for the project.

City administrators said expanding the Gordie Howe Kinsmen Arena would likely cost between $6 million to $8 million, depending on the final design.

The timeline for construction of Merlis Belsher Place will not be determined until its budget is set.

Ice sorely needed

The rink will be a community rink, not just for minor hockey players. 

Paul Buczkowski, a former Saskatoon Blade, was at the meeting with his family behind him and spoke to city council.

Buczkowski detailed a typical weekend for his family, in which they have gone out to to the neighbouring town of Aberdeen for skating sessions for his six-year-old sons.

Early mornings and long commutes are tough and Buczkowski said there is a rush to get back to Saskatoon right after, to get his 13-year-old daughter to a practice session in the nearby town of Rosthern the same morning. 

"With no ice in the city, we are forced to book elsewhere," he said.

Buczkowski estimates he's on the road for four hours on Sundays.