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A community group in Charlottetown has launched a website and a Facebook page in an attempt to make the Simmons Sport Centre the focus of a new arena, perhaps two.
The website, Simmons Sports Campus, aims to modernize the facility and pull in feedback from the public as to what residents want to see happen. It's also about the campus as a whole.
Lending support to the effort are the Charlottetown Minor Hockey Association, the principal of Queen Charlotte Intermediate School and former Charlottetown hockey player Dusty Carroll.
The City of Charlottetown has already identified its community rinks, Simmons and Cody Banks Arena, as being badly in need of replacement, but there is no plan as to how to move forward. Different ideas have been floated, including adding a third rink to the Bell Aliant Centre.
Olin Penna, a resident of the Brighton area, says Simmons is key for a number of reasons — it’s located in the middle of a neighbourhood, it’s close to the West Kent, Queen Charlotte, Colonel Gray, Spring Park and Prince Street schools and the Simmons property contains a swimming pool and turf field.
“This (effort) is bigger than being just about hockey rinks,’’ Penna said. “(It’s about) parents trying to multi-task, finding ways to balance school, extra-curricular activities and their jobs. Centralizing everything is just so much easier.’’
Penna said a new Simmons should also cater to seniors by including a walking track, and the facilities, such as showers and dressing rooms inside a new rink, should be available to teams using the turf field.
K.J. White, the principal at Queen Charlotte Intermediate School, said Simmons arena is a vital part of physical education activities at both his school and the adjacent Colonel Gray High School.
“(It’s important for) what we do for physical well-being right now and mental well-being,’’ White said. “It’s a great part of the program for physical education. We use it every day here. It would be nice to have another (ice) pad.’’
Keith Ford, president of the Charlottetown Minor Hockey Association, said half of all minor hockey players in the city live in the Simmons catchment area.
“We struggle every year for ice time and we use (Simmons) daily,’’ Ford said. “Simmons is our hub or home rink. We have a gear exchange program, so it would be easy to access our gear here if we were here instead of (making kids) go across busy streets to get to CARI.’’
Ford added the city desperately needs at least one additional ice surface than it has now. He would also like to see a dual pad at Simmons.
Carroll said looking around the Maritimes there is evidence of community rinks in the middle of neighbourhoods. He added that cities like Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton also have multiplexes.
“As the community grows, these centres become more and more important,’’ Carroll said.
Coun. Mitchell Tweel, who chairs council’s standing committee on parks and recreation, said the Simmons campus offers a variety of venues and amenities and it should stay that way.
“We’re not looking to eliminate (venues); we’re looking to add,’’ Tweel said.
Penna said they’re looking for public input on the website and Facebook page, acknowledging that people may not agree with what they want.
“But, something has to be done,’’ Penna said. “We have to get somewhere with this.’’
Where to find it
A community group has launched a website to push for the modernization of the Simmons Sports Campus:
• On Facebook
• On the web at www.simmonssportscampus.com