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No place to play

Intramural athletes Tyler Trecartin, Elsa Tokunaga and Grant Flagler need a new home. Photo by Angela Gzowski

Owen Melanson says hockey is a lifestyle.  Alex MacDonald says he cannot live without it.  Sam Legere perhaps says it best: “There is nothing better. The cold air on your face—it’s the Canadian dream.”

Melanson, Macdonald and Legere are just three of the more than 500 Dalhousie students who play intramural hockey at Memorial Arena. And with Memorial Arena closing in April, they will soon be without a rink.

“One of the best things about coming to university was I got to do something that meant a lot to me,” says Legere. “It’s a bit of a bummer.”

MacDonald agrees. “I’m kind of sad.  It’s a really nice rink, nice roof, nice architecture,” he says. “I’m angry it’s closing.”

MacDonald thinks that tearing down the rink is unnecessary. “It’s just over the top,” he says.

Nick Twarog doesn’t understand why the rink is going down. “We live in Canada,” he says. “Why are they taking down a rink in Canada?”

Dal management disagrees.

Kathie Wheadon-Hore, senior manger of building operations with Athletics and Recreational Services, says there is a need for a new roof on the arena. The cost would make it “hard to justify putting a three to four million dollar roof on a 30-year-old building.”

Additionally, Krista Cross, senior manager of marketing, says the facilities attached to the arena, such as the change rooms, are not adequate.

Instead Dal will be building a brand new arena that will offer services they believe students need.

The plans have not yet been released. Nor have any of the sites for the proposed plans been “100 per cent confirmed,” says Wheadon-Hore.

The plans include a new fitness facility, mixed-use residence and the new arena.

Shawn Fraser, senior manager of programs, says that this was something that students want. “Two years ago the students agreed to a facilities’ improvement fee for fitness facilities and to be implemented when the doors open,” he says. “There is an interest and a demand from the students.”

Cross is quick to point out, however, that the plan for the new facility is just getting started.

“It’s really preliminary right now… but there is so much that needs to happen,” she says, “It is not a short process.”

No one wants to guess how long this will take, but Fraser floated four to five years.

During those four to five years Dal students will have to decide whether ice sports mean that much to them.

Fraser says the director of athletics has been meeting with staff from the Halifax Forum to find ice time not only for the varsity teams but also for the clubs and intramurals.

Nothing is finalized, but Cross says it’s promising.

“It will not be perfect for the short-term,” says Cross. “It will be a tough road ahead for the next couple of years but with the idea that this is short-term pain for long-term gain. Eventually we will have a space that is perfect—or as close to perfect as we may hope.”

Wheadon-Hore says she has received calls from different groups concerned about the closure for the next few years.

Cross says for that reason, the rink will happen. “It needs to happen and needs to happen as fast as possible,” she says.

In the interim, Dal will continue to offer intramural hockey. “We know it’s important to students,” Cross says. “It just might not be on campus.”

First-year Dal student Maddie Evans doesn’t think that would be a bad thing. “Perhaps that will get us off campus more,” she says.  Rene Yang also doesn’t think it will be a problem. “Everything in Halifax is so close.”

According to Wheadon-Hore, the motto Dal is taking is, one step back, five steps forward. The intramural players will keep playing hockey wherever there is a rink.

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