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Timing of report on replacing Eastlink Centre ‘interesting’

Gillian Boutilier, of Halifax, and her daughter, Jenna, cheer on some skaters during the Atlantic Cup Speed Skating Championships held at Charlottetown’s Eastlink Centre this weekend. A task force that has looked at the possibility of replacing the 26-year-old arena is expected to deliver a report in a few weeks. ©THE GUARDIAN
Gillian Boutilier, of Halifax, and her daughter, Jenna, cheer on some skaters during the Atlantic Cup Speed Skating Championships held at Charlottetown’s Eastlink Centre this past weekend. A task force that has looked at the possibility of replacing the 26-year-old arena is expected to deliver a report in a few weeks. ©THE GUARDIAN - Mitch MacDonald

A task force charged with looking at the possibility of  a new arena for Charlottetown will deliver its report to council within a few weeks.

Mike Hennessey, chairman of the multi-use facility task force, would not comment on what’s in the report when The Guardian contacted him.

“The report will be delivered to council the middle of December,’’ is all Hennessey is willing to say. 

The city appointed a multi-use facility task force last year at a cost of $100,000 – money that was designed to pay for engineering and accounting work.

Hennessey was named chairman of a committee that included people from the city’s legal and accounting firms as well as business people. His committee includes Brian Cameron, Spencer Campbell, Dennis King, Barb Stevenson, Coun. Mitchell Tweel and Berni Wood. It is a volunteer board.

Their job was to examine the feasibility of establishing a major facility that would replace the 26-year-old Eastlink Centre and create a succession plan for aging facilities for council to review.

The report could tell council that moving forward with a new arena makes no sense at all or just the opposite.

Mayor Clifford Lee said he doesn’t know what’s in the report.

“I certainly see the report going to the full council and anticipate council will have a great discussion on the recommendations of the report and see how we move forward or if we move forward,’’ Lee said.

The mayor noted the report is much more than just about whether the city needs a big new multi-use arena.

Right now, the city is also faced with the problem of subsidizing three rinks – Simmons, Cody Banks and the Eastlink Centre– to the tune of $1.5 million a year, something Lee said is not sustainable.

Simmons Sport Centre is a problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

“The foundation keeps moving year after year after year and that is a result of the pool that’s attached to the rink leaking water for years through the foundation wall and now every fall, before we can open Simmons, we have to have an engineer go in and make sure the building is structurally sound. Obviously, that rink isn’t going to last much longer.’’

Lee said the Charlottetown Curling Club has also been looking for a new home for years, suggesting that maybe Cody Banks or Eastlink Centre could be possibilities.

And, the mayor said the Sherwood Community Hall, located next to Cody Banks, needs to be replaced so maybe it moves into the rink.

Lee said if a new arena were to be built it would have to include all three levels of government paying a share of the bill and could even involve community fundraising, much like the CARI Complex.

Maybe history is an indication of where this is going to go. The Eastlink Centre is a legacy of the 1991 Canada Winter Games. The 2023 Canada Winter Games are coming to P.E.I. The timing certainly seems interesting.

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