The City of Estevan has taken a step towards having a third arena in the community, but the construction of such a facility is still not a guarantee.
Estevan city council gave the green light for the city to issue requests for proposals (RFP) during Monday night’s meeting. The RFP allows potential companies to submit their bids on the project, but does not commit council to moving forward.
Rod March, who is the parks and facilities manager for the city, said there is no financial commitment from the city to issue the RFP.
“This stage of procurement is to investigate the quality of submissions and costs associated with the cost of a new turnkey facility, with negotiated options for phased construction. Council has the authority to reject any and all submissions, or to choose to proceed into a negotiated contractual stage within this process.”
The request for proposal is a lengthy document that spells out the requirements for the project. It calls for the facility to be constructed at the site of the former Civic Auditorium, which was torn down last year, and it will have a regulation sized ice surface.
The proposal packages would need to be submitted by Feb. 3, 2020. Electronic submissions will not be accepted.
Mayor Roy Ludwig said he thought there was some good discussion on the issue at Monday night’s meeting. He believes the arena would be able to accommodate about 1,000 people if it goes ahead, but they could look at having lower capacity numbers.
“Perhaps through communication and feedback, that might get narrowed down, because we said from the beginning that if that goes ahead, it would need to be a basic rink,” said Ludwig.
The city has also put a lot of money into the Power Dodge Ice Centre, which is currently the city’s No. 2 ice surface, and Ludwig said it now looks a lot better.
Councillor Shelly Veroba said she would like to have an economic assessment done on the value of a third rink for the community, and what the community could look like after Units 4 and 5 at SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Power Station are closed and potential job losses would occur.
“Then it would also show how we’re going to pay for this rink. Those are the kind of questions that I’m getting right now. People are saying how will you pay for this,” said Veroba.
Ludwig suggested the city’s economic development division could prepare a document on the economic spinoffs associated with the rink.
City manager Jeff Ward said initial estimates are it would cost about $400,000 per year to operate a third arena, which is a little more than what the city spent on the Civic’s upkeep.
Councillor Greg Hoffort suggested having a committee, similar to the one that was struck for the construction of Affinity Place from 2006-2011.
“They took the lead on a lot of things to do with that arena, right from the different features of the arena, to does the community have the wherewithal to afford such an arena,” said Hoffort.
Grassroots level committees have played a key role in city projects in the past, and Hoffort believes it could happen again here.
Ludwig chaired the new arena committee for those five years.
“I think it’s probably a good idea,” said Ludwig. “Any time you build something like that – now this would be on a much smaller scale than Affinity Place – but I think the ground rules would still be the same and I think the idea would be a good one.”
The different user groups, including the Estevan Minor Hockey Association and other ice sports groups, would need to come to the table.
“I know that with the back and forth that we’ve heard from the community, we haven’t heard a lot from our hockey community and our skating community, but I’m sure that will be coming forward, so it will be interesting to hear that segment as well,” said Ludwig.
Councillor Lyle Yanish and Ludwig were quick to point out that the city will not be directing money from the coal transition fund to this project. The city received $5 million from the provincial government through the fund, and while parameters of the fund are still being worked out, a new arena wouldn’t be eligible for funding.
“It will be to generate economic activity within our community to mitigate the negative impact of the closure of Units 4 and 5,” said Ludwig.
Councillor Travis Frank pointed out that since the Civic Auditorium closed, there has been discussion on whether the community can handle three rinks, and council wants to know what it would cost.
“For all we know, this may come back and may not even be feasible,” said Frank.
The city received sharp criticism on social media last week after a press release was sent out, announcing that it was seeking public feedback on the potential RFP. Additional criticism came on Monday night after the RFP was approved, leading Frank to post a video on his social media page explaining council’s decision.
Ludwig said there is infrastructure that a potential new rink could share with the Power Dodge Curling Club, which would be next door. The ice plant would not be shared.
The city looked at other prospective sites, including one adjacent to the Power Dodge Ice Centre, but after soil testing in both areas, it was decided the better site would be the old Civic site.
The city would be looking at naming rights sales and other fundraising initiatives to generate funds to cover a potential new arena’s construction cost.
The city would also seek government grants for the project.