Ian (Tex) MacDonald
For more than 50 years, Simmons Arena has provided minor hockey services to the residents of Charlottetown.
Other sporting events have been showcased such as amateur boxing, Maritime championship wrestling, high school graduations and even the popular public skates, which enabled everyone to display their skills. The land around the complex was donated by the Simmons family for recreational purposes. It stretches from Queen Charlotte to Spring Park Road, where the Simmons homestead stands today.
The surrounding fields became part of an all-encompassing sports pavilion featuring soccer, rugby, football and a multitude of other games too numerous to mention. Simmons’ parking lot was the meeting place for travelling teams and it provided more than ample space for local as well as visitor parking. Simmons was indeed the hub of athletics for most of the year and it even provided a “pool break” in the summer months for the babysitters and sun worshippers.
Once again, the rumour mill is rife with the notion that Simmons arena has to be replaced and – heaven forbid – relocated. As I had previously stated this green space, coupled with the arena, has become practically an icon in Charlottetown when it comes to city recreational facilities.
The residents who live in the north end of the city for over 50 years have become accustomed to Simmons’ multi-faceted facility and I’m sure they do not need the anxiety of wondering what will replace Simmons and what impact will it have on the urban geography of the city.
Cody Banks Arena located in the Sherwood/Parkdale neighbourhood has served the residents in this part of the city in much the same way as Simmons has served the residents in the north end.
Cody Banks is an integral part of this community and like any established school or church, it is taken for granted. The building is over 50 years old and is destined for demolition. Both Simmons and Cody Banks are to be replaced by state-of-the-art hockey facilities, however, the outstanding question is, where will the new rinks be located?
In my assessment, both rinks should be replaced and rebuilt in the exact same sport where they currently stand. The rationale appears to be obvious, there would be no astronomical expenses for land. There would be no new intrusion into an established residential area and the regulations associated with town planning are already in place. The strategy to accommodate minor hockey would be to rebuild Simmons and direct the overflow to the MacLauchlan Arena at the Bell Aliant Centre, Cody Banks, Eastlink Centre and even Pownal. It certainly would be an inconvenience, but they built a hospital in Wuhan in eight days, so put a limit on construction.
Upon completion of Simmons, rebuild Cody Banks using the same strategy as Simmons and, ultimately, we would have two state-of-the-art facilities without a great deal of controversy and located in neighbourhoods that would certainly not be disruptive. There should be a freeze in developments on these two properties.
Ian (Tex) MacDonald is a former mayor of Charlottetown. This is Part 2 of a three-part series on arenas. Part 1 ran Feb. 26.