Fundraisers behind efforts to build a rink at the University of Saskatchewan are asking the City of Saskatoon to consider quadrupling its investment in the new facility.
The new facility would replace the Rutherford Rink currently used by the U of S.
The city has already agreed to pay $1 million into the estimated $41-million cost of the new rink. That money came with a guarantee of 1500-hours-a-week of ice time for minor hockey.
That deal was signed between the U of S and the city.
Now, a group of fundraisers who formed in March are suggesting the city put up an additional $3 million.
Fundraising chair Tim Hodgson explained the group’s postion Monday at a meeting of the city’s planning, development and community services.
He pointed out that since the rink proposal first came out, fundraisers were able to secure an additional $6 million to build gymnasium space in the complex, which would also house two sheets of ice.
Hodgson noted the city’s own recreation master plan has pointed to shortages in gymnasium space and ice surfaces.
“Two of the top five priorities were ice facilities and a gymnasium facility. So this is a project that is right in the city’s wheelhouse as far as what their identified needs are,” he said.
Hodgson said his group is currently $6 million shy of its goal, and will keep working to hit their total regardless of whether the city can find more money.
That said, he noted even at a total of $4 million, the city would still be getting a sweetheart deal: the new facility would be maintained and operated by the university.
Plus, he noted the city’s own recreation department has stated it would cost about $4 million to $6 million to build its own one-sheet rink, or tack an extra sheet of ice onto an existing facility.
“If they went down that road, that’s basically a shell of a rink, which is a significantly different project than the first-class project we’re talking about, with all the amenities and the possibility for tourism,” he said.
Kelly Boes, executive director of the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association (SMHA), said with 36 years since the last civic ice sheet was built, the system is strained. He said kids have to practice early mornings before school and others are on the ice as late as 11:30 p.m.
He said he worries the situation may cause a decline in participation if parents have to manage kids’ practices at such inconvenient times.
“It’ll be much better (with the new rink) because people start making choices based on the effect on their life,” he said.
Boes noted the new facility would also create the potential to host more tournaments in Saskatoon – which would see the city benefit from more tourism and also spare hockey parents from driving out of town.
Committee members had extensive questions both for Hodgson and city recreation manager Lynn Lacroix. Both are expected to report back at the committee’s next meeting on Jan. 30.