City will install temporary outdoor ice rink for Hometown Hockey

City council voted in favour of a floating dock and outdoor ice rink for the festival leading up to and during Hometown Hockey in February.

Nanaimo has added more attractions to this winter’s Hometown Hockey celebrations.

City council voted at its meeting Monday in favour of a floating dock and outdoor ice rink at Maffeo Sutton Park for festivities surrounding Rogers Hometown Hockey in Nanaimo on Feb. 26.

“We’ve had some things we’ve always wanted to try. This event gives us the opportunity to try it,” said Richard Harding, the city’s director of parks, recreation and environment.

According to a staff report, the temporary outdoor rink, 12 metres by 24 metres (40 feet by 80 feet), will cost $200,000 to set up and operate. Included in that price tag is a $55,000 ice mat that the city will be able to re-use.

“We deserve a positive family activity that can happen yearly in this city…” said Coun. Bill Yoachim. “We can think of every reason in the world why not to do it, but I can think of more reasons why to do it – health, family, a gathering place.”

Liette Masse, events coordinator for Hometown Hockey Nanaimo, said the rink could be used by various hockey user groups and some well-timed pro-D days will provide plenty of opportunities for public skating.

“It’s something for families to do, which is what our whole goal was, was to bring families out to the park, not just for the weekend of the Hometown Hockey festival, but also throughout the week to celebrate our community,” Masse said.

Coun. Bill Bestwick noted that in future years, the outdoor ice rink could be used to host Winter Wonderland public skating, which would relieve ice-time pressures at Frank Crane Arena.

Mayor Bill McKay was the only member of council to vote against the outdoor rink; he expressed a wish that council had approved a budget for Hometown Hockey prior to committing to hosting.

“We needed to be more prepared,” said Coun. Diane Brennan. “I think we had too little time, so we are piecemealing together a bit of a budget. Some of it sounds like it’s on a hope and a prayer.”

Bestwick, chairman of the city’s Hometown Hockey committee, said Nanaimo didn’t have a chance to prepare a budget because of the timeline with this particular event.

“You take it or you don’t take it. You run with it and you make it the absolute best that you can, and this is going to be the festival of a lifetime,” he said, adding that it will leave a legacy.

“Sometimes the things you’re prepared for don’t work out as good as the things you’re not prepared for,” said Coun. Jim Kipp. “I think we’ve got to make this work because it will sell our community.”

The floating docks are separate expenditures that were already planned for Brechin Boat Ramp, Colliery Dam Park and Diver Lake Park. The Brechin dock is part of a larger project there; the other two docks cost $12,500 each. The docks will now be located at Swy-a-lana Lagoon first and will possibly stay there until the end of the summer festival season.

Masse said it isn’t yet determined how the floating docks will be used, and said the decision will be based on Hometown Hockey’s wishes.

“They just need to decide which of their assets they’ll be placing out there and if it’s a sponsorship piece, if that sponsor’s OK with it being placed [there],” she said.

Masse said plans are on the right track for “an amazing community event,” with activities likely to begin the weekend of Feb. 18-19. At some point in the week there will be a salmon barbecue, and fireworks are planned the night of the broadcast. Masse is also looking forward to the program’s ‘My Hometown Must’ tourism segment.

“Not only are we creating an amazing community event for the period of time this February, but [there’s an] opportunity that we were given to be able to showcase how beautiful Nanaimo is and what it has to offer,” she said.

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