A few months ago I started an online petition to see if there was community interest in constructing a third arena in New Westminster. I had set a modest target of getting a few hundred signatures. In almost no time, over 500 people had expressed their support. This included New Westminster native and Ottawa Senators star Kyle Turris as well as well-known TSN sports reporter Farhan Lalji.
There is clearly pent up demand in our city to invest in more modern sports and recreation facilities. All it needs is at least one political champion, a plan of action and the willingness to make it happen.
On Thursday I was joined by a representative from the New Westminster Minor Hockey Association as we both met with Mayor Jonathan Cote and Councillor Jamie McEvoy. The pair of politicians kindly offered us an opportunity to make our case as to why we need to prioritize the construction of a new arena.
After a good discussion, Mayor Cote advised us the City’s Parks and Recreation Committee would set aside some time at their December meeting to hear us out – and to formally have the petition presented to them.
While this may not seem like major progress, we were advised it was “a very good step” and should be considered as a sign of the City’s willingness to begin a more formal dialogue.
While I’m appreciative of this invitation and plan to attend, it is hard not to believe this is just the beginning of a very long and arduous process that may – in the end – lead to nowhere.
After all, it’s been almost two decades we’ve been talking about building a new high school in this city. Even with the funding finally secured, there are still no shovels in the ground and the school isn’t scheduled to open until 2020.
We’ve also been talking about replacing the aging Canada Games Pool as far back as 2009. There still are no shovels in the ground and no doubt a decade after the discussion began, our kids will still be swimming in the same old facility.
One request I did make of the Mayor was for him to consider putting this issue on the ballot during the 2018 municipal election. This is regularly done in other Metro Vancouver cities and it has resulted in numerous capital projects being approved for construction.
Unfortunately, my idea was shot down rather quickly. Councillor McEvoy cited past referendums [obviously long before I moved to New Westminster] whereby voters said no to new school new construction. As a result, both he and the Mayor felt it was better to have this go through normal channels – hence our date with the Parks and Recreation Committee later this year.
I believe putting a new arena on the ballot would receive majority support in our community. It’s not difficult to imagine a major grassroots public relations campaign – mounted by the NW Minor Lacrosse and Minor Hockey Associations – capturing the public’s imagination.
When you are elected to civic government, it’s your responsibility to lead and demonstrate a clear vision for the city. Putting this issue on the ballot might be outside the norm…but it may also serve to generate broad community support and trigger a healthy long overdue debate on our need to invest in new infrastructure.
Sure it may be politically risky to put this on the ballot, but if it were approved, council would have a mandate to build a new arena in 5 years – rather than the 15 years it will take to weave its way through committee.
In an era when we are seeing rising childhood obesity and the incidence of diabetes, we need to be doing everything we can to support more physical activity in our youth. A third arena in our city would go a long way in helping our kids become more physically fit, support increased sports tourism and further expand our recreational opportunities.
While I welcome the offer to continue a dialogue, I plan to keep up the pressure to put this on the municipal ballot next year so we can all have a say. If you bump into a local politician…and agree with me…be sure to let them know how you feel.
What do you think? Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to publish it for everyone to read.