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Windsor's heritage arena stakeholders react to agricultural society offer

<p><span lang="en-CA">Pictured is a conceptual drawing of the walking track next to the ice surface at the proposed Birthplace of Hockey Arena. (Submitted)<br /></span></p>
<p><span lang="en-CA">Pictured is a conceptual drawing of the walking track next to the ice surface at the proposed Birthplace of Hockey Arena. (Submitted)<br /></span></p>

WINDSOR, N.S. - On Jan. 23, the Windsor Agricultural Society pitched the idea of putting the proposed Birthplace of Hockey Arena/heritage centre on their property at the Hants County Exhibition Grounds.

However, one of the pillars of the project, $3 million from the province towards the heritage aspect, is based on it being located at Long Pond.

David Jackson, a media relations representative with the premier’s office, confirmed this in an email.

“The status of provincial funding is as Chuck Porter said last week – the funding is contingent on the location being Long Pond,” Jackson wrote.

Windsor Agricultural Society Manager David Coombes said they received a number of calls from the community, asking for them to consider putting the new arena on their property.  

“People have been calling us, saying we’re right next to the highway, right off of Exit 5A. People have been coming to this location to play hockey for the last 50 years. We’ve got lots of land here, parking here, why not build the arena here?” Coombes said in an interview.

However, one of the pillars of the project, $3 million from the province towards the heritage aspect, is based on it being located at Long Pond.

David Jackson, a media relations representative with the premier’s office, confirmed this in an email.

“The status of provincial funding is as Chuck Porter said last week – the funding is contingent on the location being Long Pond,” Jackson wrote.

Windsor Agricultural Society Manager David Coombes said they received a number of calls from the community, asking for them to consider putting the new arena on their property.  

“People have been calling us, saying we’re right next to the highway, right off of Exit 5A. People have been coming to this location to play hockey for the last 50 years. We’ve got lots of land here, parking here, why not build the arena here?” Coombes said in an interview.

A special interest group is working on creating a Birthplace of Hockey Arena to replace the existing Hants Exhibition Arena. 

The Town of Windsor will cease ice operations at the Hants Exhibition Arena after April 2018.

Coombes said they’ve been working on what to do next with the building.

“We decided to put the press release out to let people know. Maybe people will say they don’t want it here and they want it at Long Pond and if that’s the case, that’s fine,” he said. “We’re not pushing it other than the fact that there’s so many people saying ‘why aren’t you doing this?’”

Coombes said they’d be open to tearing down the original arena and building a new one, renovating the exiting arena or building a new one somewhere else on their property.

Coombes said they haven’t committed any financial contributions towards the project.

“We’re (willing) to give land, water, services, sewer – that’s quite a large aspect of the costs right there. I think the whole thing can be done a lot cheaper here than up there,” he added.

Greg Kelley, chairperson of the steering committee for the new area, facilitated a public forum hosted to provide locals with a project update.

What others are saying

We reached out to several of the stakeholders in the multi-faceted, multi-million dollar project to get their view on the idea of putting the facility at the Hants County Exhibition grounds instead of at Long Pond.

Here's what they said:

“I haven’t seen the press release yet… I have heard about it of course, but as far as the actual idea itself goes, certainly any groups are welcome to bring proposals forward," said President of the Long Pond Arena Society Greg Kelley. "We did have some lengthy discussions early on in our proposal with the agricultural society and in the end it really didn’t lead anywhere.”

Kelley said he's not sure what the agricultural society is offering or what stipulations may come with it.

“We’ll have to figure out what it is exactly that they are offering and eventually have a conversation with them. We started this to do good things for the community and to get a facility that the whole community can be proud of,” said Kelly.

“I would never say never. We’re doing this because we want to make sure we bring this to an end and get a facility here in this community and that’s really our focus.”

 

Hants West MLA Chuck Porter said the funding announcement for the new hockey heritage centre was a long time in the making.

Hants West MLA and Long Pond Arena Society member Chuck Porter said he is supportive of the site already selected but would be willing to look at the agricultural site.

“Anybody can put a proposal forward, we’ll look at that, and if they need me to take it to the government as the MLA for this area, I’ll do just that. As it stands, the society is moving forward with the facility at Long Pond,” he said in an interview.

Porter said the proposed location near the Dill Family Farm and King's-Edgehill School is an area that's steeped in history.

“The Long Pond location revolves around telling the story of where the game began, the significance of Long Pond and also the significance of this being an economic driver for our region and indeed the entire province,” said Porter. “We believed that was a good project at the time and still do. The premier has supported that idea and both municipal councils have supported that as recently as joint council.”

Joe Seagram, headmaster of King’s-Edgehill School, explains the vision behind an arena complex pitched for Windsor. 

King’s-Edgehill School Headmaster Joe Seagram used an analogy when asked about the Long Pond site location versus the Wentworth Road site.

“Everybody knows that in business, you put milk at the back of the store. If you’re really looking at the health of the community, you want thousands of people driving through your town. You want them driving down the main street, you want them driving by your shops. We locals all know where Long Pond is, and what we really want is for the rest of Nova Scotia to find Long Pond and be able to celebrate the roots and the heritage of the game right here for generations of hockey players to come,” said Seagram.

“This doesn’t change anything; the premier has said right from the very beginning, that provincial money is only for a location beside Long Pond – that Long Pond is the draw,” said Seagram. “If we look at the whole project, this is about stimulating the economy. It’s not about hockey, it’s not about ice time, it’s about getting people to come here and spend money. It’s supposed to be an economic catalyst for the region, not just the Town of Windsor. We really want a facility here that will be like the Anne of Green Gables museum in P.E.I., somewhere that one in four visitors will go.”

King’s-Edgehill School has committed $1 million towards the project.

The Town of Windsor and Municipality of West Hants have each pledged $1 million towards the project. The provincial government has committed $3 million and the LPAS says the federal government could make a funding announcement soon.

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