Plans for another ice sheet in Saanich are starting to gain some traction after councillors forwarded the STAR project to their next strategic planning meeting and staff, and agreed to send a letter to the local school district.
STAR stands for Spectrum Turf and Rink, a proposal that includes a pop-up ice rink and an artificial athletic turf for football, soccer, baseball and field lacrosse near Spectrum Community School.
Representatives from the school, Saanich Minor Hockey, and other sporting associations have been working as a committee on the proposal and a committee delegation appeared before Saanich council on March 11 to present their $13 million proposal and ask for the municipality’s support by way of a partnership.
Spectrum principal Bruce Bidney said Saanich’s support would help the committee in its dealings with School District 61.
“I’m in principle interested in knowing more,” said Coun. Colin Plant. “I think the word partnership is always the way to go when you have scarce dollars.”
Plant said the letter does not come with any financial support from the municipality, but nonetheless signals Saanich’s support in the relationship.
Staff will also take up the issue.
The proposal appeared before council as staff await the results of a recreational facility review that could show interest for a third rink. Saanich has also asked the federal and provincial governments to help pay for improvements to Pearkes Recreation Centre, worth a total of $9.81 million, with Saanich set to cover 27 per cent – or $2.65 million – of those costs.
Regardless of whether Saanich secures this funding, the municipality plans to replace the ice slab and snow pit of Gold Arena – the name of the original rink at Pearkes Recreation Centre that opened more than 50 years ago.
While staff say it is too early discuss potential disruptions, various users fear that closing down Gold Arena is not only going to worsen the current shortage of ice time but also cause significant damage to the long-term future of minor hockey in Saanich.
“Without an alternative rink, when the Gold rink goes down, the association goes down,” said SMHA president David Horricks earlier. “We have to get that message to the council. Saanich Minor Hockey would close, you can’t run it with one rink, it’s impossible. You need a certain threshold of kids in order to populate all the age groups.”
If Gold Arena were to close down, Saanich would be left with one ice at Pearkes Recreation Centre, as well as a private ice sheet at Ian Stewart Complex on the University of Victoria campus.