It was a cool, dark and rainy Wednesday evening – but that didn’t prevent our delegation from heading out to the Queensborough Community Centre to make a presentation to the city’s Park and Recreation Committee.
We were there to formally present my petition with over 500 signatures asking our city leadership to prioritize the construction of a new arena which is not scheduled to be built for at least another decade.
The delegation included Bernie Lehmann, VP for NW Minor Hockey Association and Mark Smith, VP for NW Minor Lacrosse Association. We made a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation followed by a 45 minute question and answer session. The committee is chaired by city councillor Jamie McEvoy and includes some senior staff.
Our presentation covered a number of key themes including:
- Challenges related to recruiting new kids to organized sport when practice times and access to playing surfaces is so limited.
- Organized sport is a great way to tackle the issue of childhood diabetes and obesity. It’s a great way to get them off their smartphones and more physically active!
- Planned increased density in our city requires new investments in public infrastructure to accommodate a growing population.
- Sports tourism is a great way to support our local economy, however, it is extremely limited with only two arenas.
- Registration has been relatively flat [even declining in some cases] while the overall number of kids in our city continues to grow.
- The makeup of the modern family – including a growing number of single parent families – means that early morning and difficult practice times limit their ability to register their children in organized sport or volunteer to become a coach.
“The Committee asked a number of good questions of our delegation and it was great to see such a high level of engagement and interest,” says Lehmann. “While we don’t have a commitment for a new arena yet, this was a big step forward in putting it on the radar.”
I’ve also been working with Bernie over the last several months to help set up a coalition of sporting groups committed to supporting the construction of a 3rd arena. In addition to hockey and lacrosse, the coalition is also supported by the Metro Minor Ball Hockey Association and the New West Ringette Association.
City staff confirmed that a site has been identified to build a new arena on the parking lot north of the existing Queen’s Park facility. Staff estimate the arena can cost anywhere from $8M to $15M depending on the scale of the project.
“While we don’t have a commitment for a new arena yet, this was a big step forward in putting it on the radar.” – Bernie Lehmann, VP, NWMHA
Smith also noted that connecting the two arenas could save operating costs and allow for an expanded number of tournaments to be hosted in New Westminster. “Putting two arenas together really opens up the opportunity for us to host larger and more frequent tournaments in our city.”
“We’re not going away” – is what I said with a big smile on my face when discussing next steps and where we go from here. We intend to keep up the pressure on city hall in the hopes that they can formulate a ballot question and put this project on the capital plan for the next 5 years.
While no media were in attendance, I’m hopeful they will cover this story in the weeks to come in order to keep this top of mind for our community. If you haven’t already signed the online petition, please click here and spread the word!