Volume 94, Issue 3

Friday, June 2, 2000


I'm running: DeCicco

SOGS left out in the cold
Privatization plans continue

Exploding tuition put on ice

London takes sixth in Canada

Top-notch prof search gets $9.6M

24 ways to know you're Canadian

London getting diesel powered buses

Arena shortage solved
City approves another rink

Arena shortage solved
City approves another rink

By Wes Brown
Gazette Staff

Four, four, four rinks in one.

As of September 2001, the City of London hopes to have their sheets together with the opening of a new ice complex located on the Western Fair grounds.

Deputy Mayor Anne-Marie DeCicco said the one Olympic-sized rink and three National Hockey League sized pads will address the ice shortage problem London has had for years.

"It wasn't until this year that we officially decided to go with it. We made it a top priority and this has truly been a long awaited announcement," she said.

DeCicco explained while City Council looked at a lot of sites, they wanted a central location which would be accessible to everyone. "The complex will also be a good draw for the Fair which already has many events that go on there."

She added the arena will open up economic opportunity for tourist services and restaurants.

The decision was unanimously passed by City Council on Monday night. The new arena is projected to cost upwards of $17 million, which will be paid by the Western Fair Association over a 20 year time period. Ward 5 councillor Gary Williams said the City looked at doing a private/public partnership, but decided against it.

"Arenas don't make good joint ownership ventures," he said. "So we had to regroup and eventually hooked up with the Western Fair. The Fair has guaranteed that it will cover any deficits in running the operation, rather than having the City and taxpayers involved in picking up additional costs."

Western Fair grounds general manager Gary McRae, said the new complex is a good fit for the property. He said he is also looking forward to the arena being put to use immediately.

"The university-sized pad will be used for equestrian events almost right away. As for the rest of business, the City will be our major customer. They will be taking up most of the space," he said.

McRae said the project is a natural expansion of the grounds that has recently added slot machines to its gambling confines. "Adding the slot machines placed a large debt load on [Western Fair] but I'm happy to say that will be paid off ahead of schedule," he said. "As for the debt on the new rink, it will be different for our organization, but if you want to move ahead – you have to take some risks."

James Smith, operator of Nichol's Arena located in south London, said this new construction will help out with the busy winter scheduling. "We have some core user groups that use our facility as their home rink. Throughout the winter, people want to bring their tournaments here and they get bumped."

While the new surfaces will address the overflow problem, Smith said there is no real money to be made in ice rinks. "Prices in the [United States] are $225 for an hour – up here we charge $115 Canadian. Prices are going to have to go up if they want to get their money back. But you never know, we'll just have to see," he said.

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