Volume 94, Issue 4

Friday, June 9, 2000


Athelte influx on the way - 2003 will mark a new challenge

Arena plans solidify - Western Fair, City ice deal

Hockey gods must be mad

Rocket Richard remembered

Arena plans solidify - Western Fair, City ice deal

By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff

The Montreal Canadiens moved into the Molson Centre, the Toronto Maple Leafs got their new Air Canada Centre, now boys and girls in the London area with aspirations of one day playing for those teams will get their new arena.

The ice time is not only going to be restricted to hockey players. Figure skaters and ringette stars will also shine with the opening of the new complex, tentatively set for September of 2001.

The Western Fair grounds and the City of London have joined hands to provide a brand new arena complex that will contain four ice pads, one of which will be an Olympic sized rink. Gary McRae, general manager of Western Fair grounds, said the funding for the project would be broken down into two installments.

"The city has given us five million dollars in the form of a grant, the remaining balance, [expected to be 12 million] will be borrowed from the City," he said.

McRae said the City considered renovating an old two pad arena, but the building had deteriorated to the point where it made more economic sense to construct a new arena, with two additional ice pads.

McRae explained the Olympic sized rink added a unique dimension to the arena. "Going to Olympic sized ice seems to be a new trend, it will help attract teams like the Canadian national hockey team. It is also better suited for equestrian events," he said.

The driving force behind the decision to build this arena is basic in nature. It was prompted by a lack of available ice for youngsters in the community, McRae explained.

"There was a major shortage of ice in London," said Vic Cote, commissioner of planning for the City of London.

According to the city's manager of sports tourism, Bob Graham, the shortage of available ice in London is not a new problem. In fact, the City may have been overdue for such a new complex.

"The need for more ice has been identified for about ten years now," Graham said. He also explained the construction of the arena was delayed for a while due to the building of the downtown arena, which will among other things house the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

The agreement between the City and the Western Fair will call for the City to rent 240 hours of ice a week, 60 hours per pad.

According to Graham, this will allow the City to provide prime-time ice hours to figure skaters, as well as hockey and ringette players, throughout the busy winter months. The main goal of the City and Western Fair is to make certain that the opportunity is there for any youngster who wants to take up an ice sport, to have access to a building that can meet their needs.

"The number one priority is to ensure that all kids, whatever the sport, have a place to play," Graham said.

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