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Dalhousie awaits HRM approval for joint arena

The Dalplex will be renovated. The timeline is up in the air (Photo by Jasspreet Sahib)
The Dalplex will be renovated. The timeline is up in the air (Photo by Jasspreet Sahib)

The saga to renovate Dalhousie’s athletic facilities is ongoing, with several factors yet to be determined.

As work toward renovating the aging Dalplex, on top of building a companion fitness facility, is in the preliminary stages, the university has decided where to build a new rink.

The university’s board of governors decided in July that their best option would be to build two ice surfaces with Saint Mary’s University and the HRM on neighbouring land.

If the city does not help fund a shared arena, Dal would then erect a standalone rink on its own property, said Nathan Rogers, Dal’s assistant director of capital planning.

“But all our efforts are toward the two-pad,” he said.

HRM council was expected to review the rink proposal in September, but those conversations did not occur. Instead, Brad Anguish, HRM director of community and recreation services, anticipates that council will review the proposal in February around the time the city reveals its next budget.

A decision to support a joint rink would likely alter HRM’s long-term arena strategy, which suggested closing three small arenas on the peninsula for a consolidated four-pad at the Halifax Forum.

Anguish said the city is open to the possibility.

“It may not take the form that [the universities] originally may have thought of, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a better idea,” Anguish said. “I wouldn’t call it in a conflict, it’s a different flavour, a different approach to providing ice on the peninsula.”

The joint effort between the neighbouring universities will only succeed, said Rogers, if the province provides the land—a parking lot south of the IWK Health Centre—for free.

Anguish is confident the province will agree to the exchange, despite the recent change in governing party.

Proposed drawings and an estimated budget for the rink to replace the Memorial Arena, shuttered in 2011, have not been made yet.

Dal currently rents the Halifax Forum for its men’s hockey team and recreation offerings. The women’s hockey team plays at SMU’s outdated Alumni Arena.

Dal, architects differ on fitness facility story

Meanwhile, precursory work continues on a new fitness complex and renovated Dalplex, although the university and architects provided clashing accounts of the project’s status.

George Cotaras, managing principal of Halifax-based Fowler Bauld & Mitchell Ltd., told the Gazette the project was “put on hold” this summer as the school’s board of governors explored more possibilities. He then directed further questioning to Rogers.

Rogers did not agree that the project has been delayed.

“No. I don’t think that’s fair, necessarily,” he said.

“We’re taking our time in terms of what exactly the project will look like.”

According to a Gazette report last April, a consultation session was scheduled for this September after designs had been drawn and the board of governors chose a location for the fitness complex—neither of which happened, Rogers confirmed.

However, David Miller from partnering MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, told the Gazette not only that work continued this fall, but that the Eliza Ritchie residence, adjacent to the Dalplex, would be demolished in favour of the fitness facility.

Like Rogers, Dal’s board of governors member Wadih Fares, the chair of capital projects and facilities committee, said a location has not been selected. He expects significant developments on the project in 2014.

It has been anticipated that the fitness facility would either be located where the residence currently stands or the former Memorial Arena site, now a parking lot west of the under-construction LeMarchant mixed-use facility.

If the architect is correct, the fitness complex, pitched as a state-of-the-art compound, will be south of South Street. The option was rejected by the university’s neighbours as a community disruption at the last consultation session in April.

Ian Froese
Ian Froese
Ian was the Gazette's Editor-in-chief for Volume 146. He was the Sports Editor for Volumes 145 and 144.

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