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Renovations, not replacement considered for ailing arena

Fatigued by “going around and around” on whether the town should build a brand new arena for the community, council is now moving towards a stopgap measure of giving the existing aging facility a major renovation.

Fatigued by “going around and around” on whether the town should build a brand new arena for the community, council is now moving towards a stopgap measure of giving the existing aging facility a major renovation.

If council ultimately approves it, the move would cost about $500,000 and keep the aging arena, built in 1972, functioning for up to 10 years.

Just as importantly, it would relieve the pressure on the community of having to come up with at least $9 million to build a brand new arena.

On Sept. 6 at the town management and governance meeting, council members approved a recommendation to direct administration to examine the costs for an extensive renovation to the arena. These renovations could include a new ice dehumidification system, a revamping of the change rooms, and new rink pipes and cement.

“This is a conversation that has been going around and around for years,” said Coun. Tony Jordan, whose sentiments were echoed by Coun. Michael Baird at the Sept. 6 meeting.

At the start of the discussion, Ryan Leuzinger, the town's chief administrative officer, told councillors that options he had looked into to construct a brand new arena for the community would entail expenditures that would push the town to the brink of what it could afford.

“We are limited due to the debt limit we have. Right now we are up to $4 million,” said Leuzinger, adding he was seeking options from council on how to proceed. He added that while the cost to build a new facility would be about $9 million he did not have details on how this could be funded.

Council has already received a number of presentations from private developers and contractors prepared to build an arena facility in town. Among those who have made proposals is Jungle Jim Hunter, who detailed his plan to council last spring.

Hunter proposed a facility, called the National Athletic Training Centre (NATC), that would include two ice arenas under one structure, a field house with indoor track, climbing wall, team building area, and fitness training area. The total estimated cost as outlined by Hunter would come in at around $18 million.

However, Leuzinger said he did not think an arrangement with Hunter would be a good fit for Sundre.

“I don't see him (Hunter) bringing any capital dollars for this project,” said Leuzinger. “I see him coming in after the fact.”

Outside of Hunter, however, councillors did continue to entertain the notion of enlisting the private sector to take charge of any new sports facility development.

“At what point do we say this town can't afford it and say, ‘Let's get private developers to built it and run it,'” said Baird.

But the discussion petered out when it was noted that the community, including local sports organizations, would have no say on how the facility would be operated and accessed, and would not be in any position to make money.

“It's not an option,” declared Coun. Chris Vardas.

Before the discussion on options for a new arena ended Mayor Annette Clews suggested that capital dollars might be available from Mountain View County. She added that while renovations were a prudent way to proceed the town would eventually need a new facility.

“Even with renovations the town will have to get a new arena,” said the mayor. “We need to give direction as to where we go in the future.”