Ceremonial ground broken on contentious new arena project
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | June 6, 2019|
With the beep, beep, beep of machinery behind them, Minden Hills councillors, staff, the local MP and MPP, and the public came together to officially mark the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena refurbishment project.
A ceremonial ground-breaking was held Friday, May 31 while McDonald Brothers Construction cleaned up the remnants of the demolished 1972-built arena to prepare for foundation work this past Monday.
Mayor Brent Devolin recalled how his family moved to Haliburton County in 1969. As a kid, he played hockey and remembered the new metal Minden arena of the 70s.
“What a wonderful structure it was at the time,” Devolin said, adding, “almost 50 years later, and we’re seeing the rebirth of this facility.”
The mayor said the councils of the day, that built the arena in 1972 and did repairs and additions in 1990, such as adding the community centre, were visionary. He said the building had been a fixture in the community, hosting charity events, weddings, wakes, hockey games, and rock concerts.
“Places where communities can get together are foundational in any great town. And, certainly this has been a great asset for Minden and we’re hoping in 14 months from now, the next story will be told for the next 50-plus years in our community and it will serve us as well as the previous one has.”
Devolin acknowledged that the decisions in the past, and the one to invest an estimated $12-million now, are contentious. However, he said councils have known since 2010 that the building was approaching end of life. With staff and members of the public joining two arena task forces, the decision was finally made to do a major and costly retrofit, with the majority of the money being borrowed.
“This is a bold move and history will judge whether it was the right bold move or not,” Devolin said. “Long-term investments in community assets is a risky job and the fruits of it are yielded mainly into the future. There’s a lot of pressures in the short term that moneys are required, that to spend a large amount of money, it’s not easy and it’s not popular.”
Devolin thanked present and past council members, members of arena task forces, and staff, as well as MP Jamie Schmale and MPP Laurie Scott for “being a part of a big day in Minden Hills.”
“Those of you that have been around the community of Minden since ’72, could you have envisioned what we’ve grown into? And can you imagine in 50 years hence what Minden is going to be? We’re growing at double the rate of provincial growth and I think this is a part of the piece of the puzzle of the renewal of our community in going forward.”
Director of community services, Mark Coleman said the project is so far on schedule and on budget. He said they do have a contingency fund in the event it does go over cost. He said as tenders come and go, that figure is adjusted.
“We should know by the middle of June pretty much the final target cost. A lot of the tendering will be done,” he said, indicating a report will come to council then and council can begin making decisions about value-added items.
He added that MBC has been utilizing local services where possible, although not everybody is available or qualified “but they are certainly making an effort. So, there are dollars being spent locally as part of the project.”
Demolition of the former arena began on May 1. By mid-May, the main roof and walls were down. The final clean-up was done by the end of last week. They were planning to start the foundations on Monday. The building will start to be erected on July 4 and should be up, and closed in, by the end of August. Interior work will be done in winter. They’ll do the landscaping and parking lot next spring and early summer. The commissioning of the building will then occur. That’s when they turn everything on and test it. The plan is to start making ice next August in time for September 2020 use. Coleman said the community centre remains open to the general public and people will be advised when short closures are necessary for linkage work.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.