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Nanaimo chooses dry floor instead of ice this spring

The City of Nanaimo decided to melt the ice this spring, after all.

A plan to have two ice sheets and two dry floors at Nanaimo's arenas was overturned by the city's Recreation Committee at a meeting Thursday at the Bowen Park Activity Centre. The city will instead go ahead with the usual model of three dry floors and one ice sheet.

The decision basically takes away ice time from spring hockey and city programming and gives additional floor time to lacrosse starting April 25.

City councillor and recreation commissioner Diana Johnstone made the motion and Lynda Avis was the only member to vote against it.

Johnstone said she's confident that parks and rec staff will be able to "massage" the new ice and dry-floor allocations to accommodate as many people as possible.

"It's not perfect, none of the options were perfect with regard to accommodating everybody and all the users," Johnstone said.

Avis said she was concerned about the ice users and also those who signed up for the city's activity guide programs.

"You set out your schedules, families make commitments and then all of a sudden they're gone," she said.

Nanaimo District Lacrosse Association president Brian Boas said the committee's decision will allow his association to move forward with plans for opening day in early April.

Darlene Stevens, a roller derby player, said the additional dry-floor availability might have come too late to schedule games.

"We will to do our best to try and get a couple home games in here if the space is available," she said.

The rec committee's decision will leave spring hockey scrambling.

"Losing the second sheet of ice is detrimental to the user groups, especially when we've been promised to have them for the season," said Yvette McKay, the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association's Spring Sticks program coordinator.

She said her association is waiting to see its revised ice-time allotment to determine whether or not the program can proceed with its inaugural season. McKay said it might be too late now for parents to register their children in spring hockey in neighbouring communities, so some kids might get shut out.

Rick Hannibal, coach of Nanaimo Young Guns Hockey, suggested he'll have to find ice time elsewhere for his players from across the upper Island.

"These people, when they come into town, they're staying in hotels, in campgrounds, they're eating at restaurants and now we're going to have to take them out of town instead of being in Nanaimo," Hannibal said.

The immediate financial impact of the new arena allocations won't be known until city staff have redistributed ice and floor times, said Richard Harding, the city's director of parks, recreation and environment.

When staff sits down to make the arena scheduling revisions, tournaments and youth sports will be prioritized.

"We'll use those criteria the best we can to allocate as best we can," Harding said.

The Recreation Committee voted to make three further recommendations to the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission: to update the arena allocation policy, to strike a committee to look into a covered dry floor at Harewood Centennial Park, and to look at costs and funding options for a covered dry floor.

Johnstone said this month's arenas debate "absolutely" makes another dry floor a greater priority in Nanaimo.

"Our city's growing and I'm very passionate about seeing our youth away from their computers and out into our facilities," she said.

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