Cloverdale may be getting a new rink.
During the last City of Surrey budget, funding for a new arena in Cloverdale was shelved—officially “postponed” in the words of council—but now councillor Doug Elford is talking arena again.
“We’re going to look into the feasibility of twinning the existing arena,” Elford told the Cloverdale Reporter.
He said there are no immediate plans to build a new arena in the northern area of the Cloverdale Fairgrounds—just east of the Bill Reid Amphitheatre—but that all options are on the table.
That location, next to the amphitheatre, had already undergone site prep in early 2017 when crews chopped down a bunch of trees, but then construction stopped.
“My understanding was the soil conditions weren’t that good,” Elford noted.
But Mike Bola, president of the Cloverdale Community Association (CCA), said soil studies were done on the site prior to the 2017 prep work.
“For him to say that, it’s completely wrong.” Bola said. “When that location was initially picked, soil testing was done under the previous council. They determined it was good to go, but the project cost was raised from $35 to $45 million.”
Bola said that $10 million increase was to cover the costs for the extra site work that would be necessary to prepare the land for the new arena.
“Agriplex is right next door. Has that building sunk? Why is (the soil) even an issue?” he asked.
“We’ll set up a feasibility committee to look at all options, but we have to put staff on it and we’re not there yet,” Elford said. He added that could include a new rink in a different location. He said he was unaware of any geotechnical reports or testing that was done on the north-Fairgrounds site which determined the location could support an arena complex.
Elford voted in favour of the Surrey budget last year that designated the new Cloverdale arena project as postponed. That budget passed 5-4.
Bola said he’s been campaigning since 2014 to get a new arena in Cloverdale because of the dire need.
“I have three kids in hockey. Some of the ice times are far too late or far too early for children to be out on rinks.”
Bola said the cost for one sheet of ice is about $15 million.
“There was federal and provincial money available, but we needed the mayor to take the lead on that, as the mayor must initiate requests. John Aldag was going to do it for us at the federal level. But we fell through the cracks when the new council was elected.”
Elford also noted the lease to the racetrack is coming up for renewal in a few years and that’s something that could throw a wrench into City plans.
“The province may decide to move that track. It hasn’t been discussed, but they have the potential to say ‘okay, we can move harness racing to another location once the lease is up.’ So we need to look at the validity of developing, or doing something of that type, beyond that.”
Elford said he also sits on the Board of Directors of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association and the board likes the idea of twinning the existing arena.
“We are going to look into everything. I know that they’ve done a lot of legwork on this already. So hopefully we’re not reinventing the wheel here. When it was initially put on hold—it wasn’t killed—the idea was to revisit this particular project later.”
Elford acknowledged Cloverdale was in need of facilities. “We have been approached by other user groups as well. There’s always a demand for infrastructure.”
Bola said twinning the old rink would be a waste of money and, if that proposal moves forward, the CCA will oppose it.
“We’re going to fight this. The old arena is in terrible shape. The ice doesn’t freeze well, it doesn’t accommodate the greater sporting community. The rink is past its best-before date and at the end of its useful life.”
Bola noted a new two-sheet arena will benefit all of Surrey, not just Cloverdale. He also said what Cloverdale really needs is new four-sheet arena, but he’d be happy with a new twin-rink.
“The Fairgrounds are in a prime location for sports and entertainment. There is a lot of parking, there are a lot of businesses that would benefit from having a brand new twin rink. We’d just be burning money if we update the old rink.”