The need for a new ice surface in Vernon is something that must not go unnoticed. With our growing population, and the youth in our city, a new rink is a must-have” It will also bring in tourism and revenue. This could become a significant factor in our city in the near future.
Why do we need a new rink in Vernon? The answer is simple: the Civic Arena in Vernon is in the decline and is no longer an adequate place for the youth in our city to participate in the various sports services it has offered in the past.
It was constructed in 1938 and was the first actual ice rink in Vernon. When it was completed in 1938, the city was home to a mere 5,000 people.
In the span of 77 years, the City of Vernon has grown to a population of more than 40,000 people (2013), and its metropolitan region, Greater Vernon, has a population of 58,584 according to the 2011 Census. The population has grown eight fold since the Civic Arena opened its doors but Vernon’s recreation facilities have not grown at the same pace.
The newly elected mayor of Vernon, Akbal Mund, has proposed plans to build a new rink. During a press conference in January, Mund stated, “the Civic is well past its time and we need to move forward. We know what the solution is”(Morning Star - January 2015).
He added that twin ice sheets at Kal Tire Place will help promote Vernon as a destination for major or minor tournaments. Mund, being a large supporter of progression, has a vision for the city and the possible additions that could be made to its infrastructure.
In talking with various coaches and players who are currently participating in the Greater Vernon Minor Hockey Association (GVMHA), most are not only in agreement of a new ice sheet, but enthused about the city’s youth playing in a new, safer arena. In talking with a coach who has seen his son play in the Civic Arena for the past 10 years, he mentioned that, “the Civic used to be a great arena. It was 100 per cent capable of hosting GVMHA’s major and minor tournaments. Yet, in the recent years, with other associations beginning to upgrade their own arenas, it has come to many people’s attention, that we need to keep up with the times. The Civic needs to go, and a new rink is needed.”
The method of payment for the entire project is still up in the air. Most likely, there will be a slight increase in taxes to pay for the project and also to allow the new rink to be maintained. Even with the taxes increasing, the rink itself will make Vernon a destination that is capable of hosting large tournaments and events and increasing tourism.
Penticton, for example, hosts many big events and is a major spot for music tours because of the South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC). In Salmon Arm, they have a dual rink sports centre. One rink is for the community recreation use and the other is for the local BCHL team, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, as well as the local hockey association.
If our city were to build a rink of a similar magnitude, or make improvements to the existing Kal Tire Place, we could host tours, events, and a variety of recreational activities, that attracts a larger crowd.
In June 2014, the former president of GVMHA, Richard Frater, sent a letter to Vernon city council expressing the needs of a new ice sheet in Vernon.
In the letter, Mr. Frater stated:
“We would be able to develop additional skill camps, and have the ability to host additional tournaments. Instead of our usual eight-team tournaments, we could easily attract 12 to 16-team tournaments throughout each weekend in the fall and winter.
“Private spring and summer teams would have the same benefits. The economic benefit from sport tourism can be seen every weekend when GVMHA hosts a tournament.
“Hotel parking lots are full, Boston Pizza and other restaurants are enjoying increased visitation, and families are spending throughout the community.”
Does all this need to be done immediately? No, it doesn’t need to begin right away.
Even though it is a plan Akbul Mund has, we still have to wait for approval from Victoria, and then consensus from the taxpayers of Greater Vernon, “but first our elected leaders need to have the vision and passion to lead us into the future and demonstrate a commitment to the youth of today and tomorrow.”
The possibility of a new rink in the next few years is one that excites many people. It will expand and benefit this place we call home.