Fish arena’s future in hands of public

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

It appears the difficult decision to keep the H.W. Fish Arena at McLennan closed this winter will remain unchanged.
McLennan town council held a passionate debate on the matter at its Oct. 12 meeting and it appears most councillors agree there is not enough value in installing ice and opening the arena nicknamed the Fish Tank.
However, a public meeting will be called in the future, date to be announced, to let the public have input into the decision.
Debate began when council revealed they might list the arena for sale. CAO Lorraine Willier suggested the importance of the topic might warrant a special meeting for the new council. Councillors Sue Delaurier and Marie-Anne Jones immediately agreed.
Councillor Terry Calliou strongly disagreed, however.
“It should be discussed at the community,” he said.
“It’s to be decided by the community.”
Council heard the last year the arena was open in 2019, ice rental was down to a paltry eight hours a week with operation losses totaling $137,000.
“Sad. Very, very, sad,” said Delaurier.
She added she spoke with an M.D. of Smoky River resident who was concerned the arena will remain closed.
“. . .but they are M.D users,” she told council. “McLennan taxes go up [to cover costs], not the M.D.’s.”
Calliou has strongly advocated keeping the arena open since winning a byelection one year ago.
“Shutting down an arena, it’s like ripping the heart out of the community,” he said, adding perhaps the community could come up with good solutions to increase usage.
Delaurier was skeptical.
“There are a lot of great ideas but they cost a lot money,” she said.
Stout opposed opening the arena.
“I think our council did a wise thing when we closed it,” he said.
“What about the future?” asked Calliou, adding people look for amenities such as recreation facilities when choosing where to live.
Delaurier said it made no sense for the Smoky River region to operate three arenas for a population of 4,500 people. Falher and Donnelly also have arenas.
“It’s the biggest [white] elephant we have in town,” she said.
Stout added he did not receive one call [complaint] about the arena closing.
And, Delaurier added, she heard compliments that town taxes decreased after council saved money by not incurring such a large deficit in arena operations.
“We can’t afford it,” said Stout.
“There’s 700 people here. It’s $137,000 we can’t afford.”
Especially, added Delaurier, when the streets are “crumbling”.

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