The vice-president of the Ontario Hockey League is pleased the Essar Centre will soon be retrofitted with NHL-standard glass, even though he admits the league could not have forced the city to do so.
Ted Baker, vice-president of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) said the players will benefit from added safety in the upgrade.
“From a safety standpoint on behalf of the players, I think it’s a tremendous step for the Essar Centre,” said Baker.
At last night’s city council meeting, Nick Apostle, commissioner of Community Services said the glass would be required in the near future.
“It’s not a requirement of the OHL right now this season. It’s our understanding it could very well be for next season,” said Apostle.
But Baker said — because the teams within the league do not own the facilities they play in — the league cannot force any changes.
Instead, the league requires new or refurbished facilities to adhere to the current standards — in terms of seating, lighting, glass, etc — as written in the league’s facility manual.
“When Brampton went to North Bay and they refurbished the Memorial Garden and put in the acrylic glass. When Plymouth moved to Flint the acrylic glass was put in,” said Baker.
Older facilities, such as the Essar Centre, are grandfathered in and not required to retrofit.
The league can only compel a change when a new venue is being built or an existing one is being refurbished.
The Essar Centre is nine years old and was built to the standard of the day.
"It’s a beautiful facility as it is," said Baker, of the Essar Centre.
Some cities have opted to replace only certain portions of their arena glass, which result in a cost savings.
In Oshawa, for example, only the end zones are comprised of acrylic glass. Baker said the rest of the glass would be similar to the tempered glass currently used in the Essar Centre.
“It’s a tremendous step forward on behalf of the players. They are the most important people in our game, if we continue to challenge ourselves in that area, as Sault Ste. Marie has, I think it’s terrific,” Said Baker.
The change to acrylic glass will be done to NHL standards, at a cost estimate of $80,000 to $90,000.
Only one supplier was consulted for the cost of the upgrade.
The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge will be held October 28 to November 6, 2016 and will not require the upgrade, but will benefit from added safety, says the city.
The city says about $120,000 is remaining in a fund established for Essar Centre upgrades, which will be mostly drained by this proposed retrofit.
SooToday could not reach Apostle for comment today.
Ward 3 councillor Matthew Shoemaker would like to know why council was led to believe the retrofit would be required by the league.
“I would certainly like a clarification on that. I don’t think it’s ever good when there is a mis-statement within a report. It’s very possible there is a good explanation for it,” said Shoemaker.
Having said that, Shoemaker suggests that information may not have changed his vote to spend the estimated $90,000.
“It’s our premier sports and entertainment venue in town, so it’s the first priority,” he said.
(FILE PHOTO: Marks seen on tempered glass at the Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie. The city is considering retrofitting the arena to acrylic glass at a cost of $90,000. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday)
Earlier SooToday coverage of this story