Sites for new Dalhousie arena proposed
Community members weighed in with varying thoughts on the three proposed sites for a new hockey rink and fitness facility at Dalhousie during an information session on April 4.
Although a consensus was not reached with the estimated 50 people in attendance, virtually all attendees rejected the proposal to construct a rink where the Eliza Ritchie residence stands, and to build an expanded fitness facility where the Dalhousie Memorial Arena (DMA) currently stands.
Many community members cited Dal’s past commitment from the late 1970s, when the Dalplex was built, that the university would not build any further developments south of South Street.
Dal’s current administration is investigating whether that commitment is legally binding. Jeff Lamb, assistant vice-president of Facilities Management, said Dal’s lawyers believe they might have a case.
“We have legal opinion that we are within our rights to build there,” said Lamb.
That concept of building an arena where Eliza Ritchie is located was suggested since late last year when it was announced Memorial Arena’s days were numbered. Dal decided to nix the arena when it was discovered the roof of the new mixed-use facility would redirect too much snow onto the DMA’s unstable roof.
Lamb said at the meeting the cost to fix the 30-year-old roof would be $6-8 million, saying that each expert they spoke to recommended that the expense of renovating the arena’s roof was not worth the cost of building a new rink.
The information meeting was held to present interested community members with the three suggestions that will be sent to the school’s Board of Governors. The Board is then expected to make a decision on which option they prefer—or whether further alternatives should be researched—April 17 at their next meeting.
In the interest of pleasing the university’s neighbours, who flatly reject any construction south of South Street, Lamb said Dal would not build both the arena and fitness centre next to the Dalplex, which was one of the possibilities. The audience applauded the decision.
Another proposed motion that was presented Wednesday is to build a combined arena and fitness centre where the current rink and Studley Gym is located.
Finally, an idea that has been gaining traction in recent weeks is the possibility of a joint hockey rink for Dal and Saint Mary’s University. This would be located at a site in Gorsebrook, surrounded by South, Robie, Inglis and Wellington Streets.
The recommendation for the Gorsebrook site, just south of the IWK Health Centre, is for two ice surfaces to be built in a single facility rather than the one rink requested in the other proposals.
Lamb said conversations with the cross-town university are preliminary.
“They’ve expressed interest. They’ve also expressed that they don’t have a lot of money at this time, but they are certainly willing to talk.”
Halifax councillor Sue Uteck added that the double-pad arena is her top choice.
“For varsity athletes it’s probably not preferred because they want to be able to walk to the arena from their weight rooms, but for a community, it’s ideal.”
No discussions took place at this information meeting concerning the cost of any of the three proposals or how much time would be needed for construction.
Although plans for a new arena are progressing, Memorial Arena’s demolition is not official yet. Lamb, however, told the Gazette the arena’s razing is a virtual guarantee.
“We didn’t feel we could say we’re demolishing the arena without having a viable alternative,” he said.
“Once we’ve picked which of the three options we’re going to choose, we can confirm the demolition.”
Decommission work has already begun on Memorial Arena. A final skate was held April 1, which Dal Athletics was cautious to advertise as the final of the year and not the last of all time.