Twin arena project a step closer to reality

Project would help relieve ice-time pressure on existing rink facilities, say university planners.


Help to alleviate some of the usage crush felt by city arenas may be on the way.

A new partnership between the City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta to build a much-needed twin arena in south central Edmonton was recommended for approval by the city’s community and public services committee with some conditions.

“A project like this has been a long time in coming,” said Kerry Mummery, dean of the U of A’s Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. “We’ve been looking for another sheet of ice for decades.”

Mummery and Andrew Sharman, the U of A’s vice-president of facilities and operations, were on hand to present the university’s case for the city to invest $20 million in the proposed $65-million South Campus Arena Project, which, among other things, includes a 3,000-seat and a 400-seat arena.

The conditional deal guarantees the city 1.25 sheets of ice for roughly the same cost as a single-sheet arena.

The proposal comes as a couple of the city’s older single-sheet arenas are set to come offline. George S. Hughes and Tipton in the south central area as well as Coronation Arena, which the proposed South Campus arenas would replace, have all been recommended for closure. The city’s 2008 10-year Arena Capital Development Strategy recommended adding nine new sheets of ice to maintain a service level of one sheet per 20,000 residents. The opening of the Downtown Community Rink will bring the total number of ice sheets opened up since the strategy was announced to seven.

“Discussions with the city had been very positive because there is a win-win positive aspect to it,” said Mummery. “They need rinks and it’s difficult for the city to find land in such a central place.

“We believe this will be consistent with the city’s infill plan as well,” he added. “If you are going to infill neighbourhoods, you need to have sport and recreational facilities around.”

The project also involves relocating the High Performance Training and Research Centre from its current home in the Saville Community Sports Centre.

The new centre will enhance the university’s educational offerings—specifically the master of coaching, bachelor of kinesiology with a major in coaching, and bachelor of kinesiology with a major in sport performance—and support the ongoing work of the Alberta Sport Development Centre.

As well, the space previously occupied by the centre will be returned to the fold as a multi-use gymnasium.

“The project will support the broad community in terms of sport science and sport training, and obviously there will be research and teaching aspects in there as well,” said Mummery, “We’ve spent a great deal of time working with the surrounding communities to make sure we do not infringe on them, but also to ensure they understand that this project provides a necessary service for those neighbouring communities.”

As for the future of Clare Drake Arena, Mummery says the university intends to hold on to the 57-year-old local sporting icon for the near future, as having two rinks at the university’s disposal has long been a goal of administrators.

“The U of A is an interesting place in that we have two swimming pools and only one ice surface,” said Mummery. “We have been thinking about a second arena for decades.”

The project is conditional on, among other things, resolving the parking issue for the facility. The university would like to charge a modest parking fee of $2 while the city would prefer parking be free for patrons and have the university absorb the cost.

The committee recommended the mayor write a letter of support to the university for the arena project and indicate willingness to partner on funding, subject to conditions. It’s expected the project will be discussed at a future city council meeting.

Should the city ultimately approve and fund the project, it still requires a $25-million injection from the province, which won’t make a decision until the spring.If all goes well, Mummery said, construction on the project would start in fall of 2017 and be completed by spring 2020.