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The City of Charlottetown is considering building a new ice surface and pool next to Queen Charlotte Intermediate School.
The idea is to replace the aging Simmons Sport Centre and the adjacent pool with new structures.
Talks are being held in private in the leadup to the city’s annual capital budget, which is expected to be delivered any day.
The city was looking to decommission Simmons and add a third ice surface at the Bell Aliant Centre, but that was shot down recently by the UPEI board of governors and, subsequently, by the board of directors at the centre.
Shawn Murphy, chairman of the board at the Bell Aliant Centre, said they engaged an architect and two engineers to look at the possibility of adding a third ice surface.
The report that came back said major work would be required to the centre’s electrical grid and district heating system. Parking was also going to be a significant issue.
“If we were to meet the city bylaw, we would lose about 150 parking spots,’’ Murphy said, referring to the existing parking lot at the centre. “And, according to the bylaw, we would have to come up with another 100 (parking spaces) as a result of our expansion so there wasn’t a logical answer to that question.’’
In order to address everything, Murphy estimates it would have cost $5 million.
As a result, UPEI withdrew its support of the project, and the centre’s board felt it had no other choice but to do the same.
“At the end of the day, we decided to abandon the project.’’
It may have forced the city’s hand on replacing Simmons.
Mayor Philip Brown didn’t want to say much when contacted by The Guardian recently because options are being discussed in private.
The mayor did say that the city still intends to pursue federal climate change funding for a new facility, and a new arena would have to include the decommissioning of the existing Simmons facility.
Mark Fisher, who is with a community group that has been trying to see a new ice surface built on the existing Simmons site, said this was never about being opposed to a third ice surface at Bell Aliant Centre.
“We needed to maintain a rink on the grounds where the facility currently sits,’’ said Fisher, who is with the group known as Friends of Simmons.
"Some people were mixing that message up. I am . . . optimistic that the city will do the right thing on the site that Simmons sits.’’
Fisher said even though the prospect of keeping a rink in the community seems a lot better today, it still doesn’t address the most dire need — an additional ice surface is desperately needed in the city.
Fisher said if council ultimately chooses to rebuild Simmons, he hopes the new facility includes a walking track and a small community gymnasium.