With ice time at a premium and registration numbers rising, Semiahmoo Minor Hockey Association is talking with the City of Surrey and a private developer about building a new arena in Grandview Heights.
Entering into a public-private partnership on a new twin-rink facility – in which Semiahmoo teams would be the primary tenants – would help alleviate the association’s biggest current problem, which is finding local practice and game times for its teams.
“We are highly oversubscribed,” Semiahmoo Minor Hockey’s director of capital planning Pat La Rue told Peace Arch News.
Last year, the association hired a consultant to examine the issue, and it was determined that, with the ice time available at White Rock’s Centennial Arena and South Surrey Arena, the association has adequate space for 400 players. Last season, more than 1,000 players were registered to play.
“It’s our mandate as an association to get as many (children) playing as we can,” La Rue said. “We could turn around and say we’re going to turn kids away, but that’s never been what we’re about.”
In order to accommodate all its teams, Semiahmoo has in recent years bought ice time at other arenas across the Lower Mainland, including Langley’s Sportsplex, the Surrey Sport and Leisure Centre in Fleetwood and Delta’s Great Pacific Forum.
“Increasingly, it’s become a real challenge to find local ice. We get parents saying, ‘Why do we have to drive so far for our kids’ practice?’”
Currently, all rinks in Surrey – save for the smaller Excellent Ice facility in east Panorama Ridge – are owned and operated by the city.
However, Laurie Cavan, Surrey’s general manager of parks and recreation said they are “always open to new and creative ways to build and run new facilities.”
She said initial discussions have taken place regarding a new South Surrey arena, though no plans or timeline have been set.
“What I can tell you is that we’ve received some proposals,” she said. “We are evaluating them, but at this point it is all in the preliminary stages.”
The proposed facility – which would include two sheets of ice and, potentially, other amenities, La Rue said – is being eyed for a plot of land just south of 24 Avenue, where 160 Street bends into Croydon Drive.
The property is immediately south of a proposed development that would be anchored by a Great Canadian Superstore.
The land is not owned by the city, Cavan said.
The arena project would be the latest in a string of new developments in the Grandview area. The city-owned Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre, at 24 Avenue and 168 Street, is slated to open this summer, while a new high school is also planned for next door, though a timeline for the latter has yet to be set, as funding hasn’t been announced.
La Rue said the minor hockey association would have to foot its share of the bill, likely “about $2 million,” should the ice-rink project go ahead. Such a cost is manageable, he said, before adding “we would definitely need to fundraise.”
The project was one of five potential solutions presented to the minor hockey association by the consultant’s feasibility study, La Rue said.
Other suggestions included purchasing a rink from the City of Surrey; converting, on a part-time basis, the Peace Arch Curling rink into smaller sheets of ice for hockey; building a bare-bones rink suitable only for practices; or pressing the city to expand the Surrey Sport and Leisure Centre.
And while the public-private project is the most ambitious, La Rue said the end result would be worth it.
“The challenge is that it’s very expensive to build a new rink, so we have to deal with that… (but) our obligation is to our membership and to our future membership,” he said. “So we’ll try to run with this (plan) for as long as it can go, and see what happens.
“With development in the area continuing to grow, we look at this and say, ‘without this, we’re in trouble.’”