Orillia Minor Hockey is imploring the city to replace the outdated Brian Orser Arena with a new rink at the coming recreation centre.
But a councillor with an affinity for the game says taxpayers’ money is better spent on refurbishing the aging Gill Street facility.
“There is nothing wrong with the building, it’s still good,” said Rob Kloostra. “Oro did the whole renovation on their (rink in Guthrie). It was $3.2 million to do the whole project and they got 20 more years out of it.”
Kloostra’s suggestion that the local facility could be upgraded and perhaps expanded is unlikely to find favour with the local hockey association.
President Fior Tucci is calling on the city to include a twin pad at the recreation centre at 255 West St. S., with a single ice surface constructed as part of the project’s first phase.
Pouring millions into the Brian Orser Arena makes no sense, Tucci recently told council in a letter.
“As an association, we are opposed to spending millions of dollars on an outdated, fledgling building which is cost prohibitive to repair based on its original intention,” he said, adding the city has yet to solicit input on the recreation file from his organization.
Tucci said the local hockey association was forced to cancel games and practices at the arena after the ice plant was shut down in September.
A letter outlining its concerns was sent to council that month.
“We also moved tournament games from Brian Orser over concerns of the reliability of the facility for our popular 26th annual Jim Wilson Tournament, which draws over 1,000 participants to our city,” he added.
The association has had to rely on the arena for its expanded Tyke House League program, as there was no ice available at Rotary Place.
Tucci says the building has ongoing issues and should not be viewed as an optional ice surface.
“We cannot start a program in September in the hopes that Brian Orser can facilitate our program,” he added. “There are no other options and we would be forced to cancel programs.”
According to Kloostra, the city has no funding commitment from upper levels of government for another rink.
“For this population, how are you going to pay for it?” he said. “You’d have to have it open 24 hours a day to pay for it.”
Council has agreed to repair the refrigeration system at Brian Orser along with any minimal repairs that are required, Kloostra added.
“But there has been no commitment for any major work on it,” he said.
Kloostra intends to push for a larger investment in the decades-old facility, including updated dressing rooms, energy efficient features and increased seating.
“Bring it up to NHL size,” he said, adding a second floor could be erected to accommodate meeting rooms.
“We are talking millions, but it is good money well spent,” he said.
In a previous report, staff said retrofitting the Brian Orser Arena carried a $3.5 million price tag, while a new arena would run $7 to $10 million.