30+ attend meeting to ponder arena’s future

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

A society needs to be formed to raise money to reopen and operate the H.W. Fish Arena in McLennan.
It seemed to be the consensus of many attending a public meeting May 11 at the Elks Hall, hosted by town council to decide the future of the iconic building.
Mayor Jason Doris told the 30 people attending that council shut down the arena the past two winters because of the deficits incurred by installing ice. Figures presented painted a grim picture. During the 2020-21 year, the deficit was $38,471.58 when the building sat vacant. Years there was ice in the arena, deficits ranged from a high of $105,658.33 in 2016-17 to a low of $82,475.68 in 2019-20.
“We just don’t have enough people using it,” Doris told the audience, adding he was pleased both town and neighbouring M.D. of Smoky River residents attended to listen and provide input.
“That’s the issue. That’s the problem we’re having,” said Doris.
“We can’t keep dumping it [deficits] on the taxpayer. It’s an expensive building to have, obviously.”
Doris said user groups and/or societies could step forward and manage the arena with the help of council.
“We’re here to hear your ideas,” said Doris.
One woman suggested roller skating, another said to rent the building to a private firm; however, if council rented the building insurance rates would rise dramatically, said Doris, due to it be being reclassified as commercial.
Terry Calliou replied the ice pad was not fit for roller blading.
“What is the projected vision for the town?” asked Calliou, adding any future decision on the arena had to be tied to a longer vision. He asked specifically if McLennan wanted to attract new, younger people or be a senior citizens town.
Councillor Margaret Jacob agreed.
“All of you here are interested in the welfare of our community,” she said. “When you look at the arena, it can be the start of addressing other issues.”
Other ideas included a portable indoor pool, and simply selling the building.
Calliou suggested forming a society and holding bingos.
“You can make $50,000 profit,” he said.
Another woman said it made no sense to install ice in the area given the usage and deficits.
Another suggested the region band together to operate facilities, and that three arenas in the region [Donnelly and Falher] were too much.
However, at least one person opposed.
“We’re not Falher!”
Calliou said he would be part of a new non-profit society.
Meanwhile, Jacob said she would like to see younger people in the community get involved.
“[Taking] ownership of our community,” she said.

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