STELLARTON – It appears the Stellarton Memorial Rink is on borrowed time.
Town mayor Danny MacGillivray hosted an open house Wednesday afternoon – another was planned for the evening – where he outlined some of the major stumbling blocks in the way of keeping the 72-year-old structure open for the long term.
First, a litany of major repairs that would cost more at least $4.1 million – and perhaps much more. “It’s in pretty rough shape, the building itself,” said MacGillivray, who stated that “everything but the roof” would be earmarked for major repair work. He said that unless someone can come up with an idea to use the building for other means, “it’s probably a fair statement” that it will be razed.
“There’s a lot of emotional connection to the rink, but we have to make the right decision for the Town.”
Following the meeting, MacGillivray said if the rink were to close, it would be torn down and the land would be re-purposed, although he added that the cost of a tear-down would be somewhat offset by the worth of the steel within the building. He also stated that council hasn’t discussed future plans for the land at this time.
The mayor said that council will decide on the rink’s future in February and that “we’ll make (the decision) as soon as possible.”
Hugh Langille was one of about 25 residents who attended the open house, and he questioned the idea of “pouring more money into an aging rink that serves a small percentage of the population.”
In the current year, the rink has a budgeted operating cost of slightly under $150,000, not including any capital costs.
Data compiled by Town staff and made available to the public showed that the rink is often empty, even when ice-time hours are available to be booked. On a weekly basis, there are 22 unused hours, while the rink is used for:
• 20 hours of minor hockey;
• 11 hours of private/men’s rec leagues;
• one hour for non-profit schools;
• Six hours of free public skating.
Jeff Green can remember leaving his house in the morning to walk to the rink for hockey practice before heading off to school. He’d like to see the rink remain open but recognizes the financial hurdles facing the Town.
“My heart’s in the facility and I’d love to see it open, but I just don’t think there’s the demand, and I don’t think there’s the money that’s required,” Green said.
The Town also faces what it termed “other critical priorities” for Stellarton:
• An undersized police station;
• A town hall and police station that is not accessible to all residents;
• A public works facility that is not up to code;
• 11.5 kilometres of sanitary sewer that needs replaced;
• Water source security.