Without any changes to the city’s arena scene, one group worries it might have to look elsewhere for ice time.
Orillia Minor Hockey Association president Fior Tucci said questions surrounding Brian Orser Arena’s reliability means his organization can’t count on the rink going forward.
In a letter to council, Tucci addressed his concerns, noting, "We cannot start a program in September in the hopes that Brian Orser can facilitate our program. There are no other options and we would be forced to cancel programs."
Tucci said rather than spend more money trying to repair the arena, the city should invest in the inclusion of twin ice pads at the new recreation facility, with one pad built as part of Phase 1 construction.
"If we have a problem with Brian Orser, we’re behind the eight-ball," he said, adding there are other hockey and figure-skating groups also vying for ice time.
"The concern is the demand is growing for ice."
As it stands, Tucci’s organization requires about 75 hours of ice time to accommodate its weekly slate of games and practices, with 12 to 15 hours needed at Brian Orser Arena and the balance played at Rotary Place’s two sheets of ice.
Tucci said his group, which welcomed 670 registered players this season, was forced to cancel games and practices last fall after a forced shutdown of the arena.
As well, he noted games were moved to other rinks in Rama and Coldwater during their annual Jim Wilson tournament over concerns related to Brian Orser Arena’s reliability, which he also pointed out is severely limited in what it offers in terms of changing, lobby and spectator areas.
Tucci said the burgeoning tyke house-league program for children aged four to six had all of its games and practices at the Brian Orser Arena this past year, with some parents mentioning they should receive a prorated refund on their fees since their children have to play in an "inferior" facility.
"You can’t play the kids at noon on a Thursday," he said, noting that means Rotary Place isn’t an option since its prime schedule is already stretched to the limit.
Mayor Steve Clarke said while council would love to be able to follow through on Tucci’s hopes, it’s not economically feasible without another funding partner.
"If finances weren’t a concern, I would love to see that scenario, but we cannot afford it without other levels of government," said Clarke, who also sent Tucci a written response.
"Continuing with capital investments in Brian Orser Arena is prudent to ensure the ongoing operations," wrote Clarke, who noted the recreation facility’s design allows for future expansion as part of Phase 2.
"The decision can still be made in the future for a new arena facility while at that time examining the pros and cons of keeping (Brian Orser Arena) as an additional ice surface."