© Nigel Armstrong - The Guardian
Jeremy Pierce, arenas superintendent for Charlottetown points to a plan for the sports complex around Simmons Arena during a public information meeting Tuesday at Queen Charlotte junior high school.
The money isn’t there right now but city council in Charlottetown knows some difficult decisions have to be made about the future of Simmons arena.
Council recently formally 'received' the Simmons Master Plan as a guiding document, meaning that council has committed to looking at the report in detail. Council is not considering acting on any of the options listed in the report, at least not at this time.
“We will be looking to that for improvements within the facility and (we know) that there are some very large budgetary implications with the Simmons Master Plan,’’ said Coun. Melissa Hilton, chairwoman of parks and recreation.
The city hired consultants two years ago, including an engineering firm, to study the 40-year-old arena, consult with the public and come up with a plan. That was presented to council last June and to the public in January.
No money is available for any changes, so the process is just a guiding plan for the future.
The outdoor pool adjacent to the arena is in bad shape, too. Options include investing close to $1 million for a new outdoor pool, perhaps with a splash pad or wading pool.
There is also strong support for an artificial turf field. There are three of them in the province but none are owned by the city and none are big enough for football. The turf football fields at UPEI and Cornwall are not long enough to include all parts of a modern football surface.
Hilton said they’d like to have dressing rooms for those using the sports fields
One of the options for Simmons would be to twin the facility, adding a second ice surface but that also creates demand for extra parking and ends any hope of making the existing field into artificial turf.
Also at play is Cody Banks arena, which is also 40 years old. Structurally it’s fine but the mechanical systems inside are in poor condition. Simmons’ structure needs work but its mechanical systems are fine.
Both could take an investment to keep going for five years, and up to $7 million in Simmons arena and sports fields to keep going for 10 years but then a new twin-rink facility would still need to be built.
Of course, building a brand new rink is also an option.
The city could also keep Simmons going as long as it can with minimal investment.
No one is talking about it now, but a lot of people behind the scenes would like to see a major multi-purpose arena built in Charlottetown to replace the Eastlink Centre, perhaps one that is twinned like Credit Union Place in Summerside. That could solve a few problems.
“There’s great ideas, great plans in there,’’ Hilton said. “It’s just a matter of finding the money now. We accepted (the master plan and) we’re going to try to figure out what is best for that parcel of land to the demographic (and) to the user groups.’’