Tuesday, August 09, 2011

COMMITTEE TO EXPLORE OPTIONS FOR YORK ARENA

(As publshed in the Daily Gleaner, August 9/11)

The chairman of an ad hoc committee on the future of the York Arena is planning to hear from special interest groups, the public and experts before drawing a conclusion on the fate of the northside ice hockey arena.

Coun. Mike O'Brien, who has been opposed to retaining the structure once the Grant * Harvey Centre is completed, said he's prepared to weigh all the facts with an unbiased eye.

He was appointed to head up the committee by Mayor Brad Woodside and city council after the Save the York Arena group wanted to make a fresh approach to city council touting the merits of saving the building. A second group, consisting of local runners who are looking for indoor training space, has also stepped forward.

City council Monday night appointed five people to serve with O'Brien on the ad hoc committee, including: its executive director of special projects Greg Cook; Rob Jackson and Gabriela Tymowski as community representatives; and Holly Hyslop of the joint city and local service district recreation advisory committee. The recreation advisory committee was formed when a number of local services districts and the Village of New Maryland voted to contribute taxes toward the cost of the city's two new arenas. Willie O'Ree Place opened in 2008. The city, in turn, waived all non-resident user fees for its sports facilities.

"We will hear presentations from groups that have a particular interest in York Arena, either for maintaining it for hockey or for some alternate use, so we will set time aside to meet with them personally and let them make presentations and the committee can then ask questions. Those will be open to the public," O'Brien said.

He plans to hold a public meeting to receive brief presentations for and against keeping York Arena open.

"We will also hear presentations from the dMA group that did the recreation master study (for the city) to try to pick their brains a bit more on per capita ice surface requirements and alternate recreational needs in the city that demands dollars," O'Brien said.

ADI Ltd., which conducted a structural audit of all the city's ice hockey arena's as part of a facilities 220-page evaluation study released in 2004, will be hired to present an update of its structural analysis of the York Arena.

"We will also engage Hockey New Brunswick to come in and give a presentation on hockey use and growth or the lack thereof. We'll get a broad perspective fiscally and we'll also get a presentation from city treasurer Tina Tapley on the fiscal costs of maintaining the York Arena and upgrading it or closing it," O'Brien said Monday night.

Recommendations from the city's community services division will be included, O'Brien said.

"We have a very good committee put together. I wanted to have a panel of people that were passionate and experts in their field, but who were also detached from the issue. Rob Jackson is a tennis Hall of Fame member and former president of Downtown Fredericton Inc. Gabriela Tymowski is an associate professor at the university (of New Brunswick), but she is also a well published scholar on participation and fighting obesity by having recreational opportunities," O'Brien said.

He said the startup meeting of the ad hoc committee will be held in October. O'Brien said he hopes to have a final report to council no later than February.

O'Brien said there are no budget implications to the city until at least the 2013 budget year.


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