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First look at what they’re proposing for the McMeeken arena (7 photos)

If $29 million project is approved, old McMeeken would continue to operate for 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, with demolition slated for 2022

Construction of a twin-pad replacement for the W.J. McMeeken arena will begin in May 2021 if City Council approves the $28.8 million project next week.

Franco Pastore, principal architect and designer from IDEA Inc. will be at Monday's council meeting to unveil his design renderings.

If the project is approved, the old McMeeken Centre would continue to operate for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, with demolition slated for 2022.

Cost of demolishing the old structure is estimated at $1 million.

"Due to the condition of the McMeeken arena, staff typically do not start up the arena until the weather gets cold and take the ice out earlier in the spring to avoid operating the facility in higher temperatures," says Tom Vair, the city's deputy chief administrative officer for community development and enterprise services.

"The new facility will permit longer seasons similar to the John Rhodes or GFL Memorial Gardens," Vair said in a report to Mayor Provenzano and his 10-player team of ward councillors.

"One prominent feature that the committee hoped to be included but did not make the final design is a walking track. The walking track is estimated to cost $1 million," Vair said.

Features of the proposed sportsplex include:

  • 85,000 square feet
  • two NHL-sized ice pads (85 feet by 200 feet)
  • 10 accessible player change rooms (two with enhanced accessibility)
  • two accessible referee change rooms
  • 750-spectator seating capacity in ice pad 1
  • 300-spectator seating capacity in ice pad 2
  • community meeting rooms and gathering areas
  • elevated barrier-free lobby for viewing into rinks
  • standing/seating areas for viewing to both rinks
  • concession (food and beverage)
  • public washrooms including universal washrooms
  • ice plant (refrigeration equipment/ice resurface room)
  • skate sharpening/pro shop
  • ticket office
  • storage

The architect offered four options for scaling down the initiative but the city's twin-pad arena committee is recommending the city press forward with the full project.

Even if councillors decide against replacing the deteriorating McMeeken, a recently completed independent engineer's report found that the city will still have to shell out an estimated $3 million in coming years to keep the facility in running shape. 

"Further, if there is a serious failure the costs could be greater," the twin-pad arena committee said.

Groups consulted by the architect include:

  • twin pad arena committee
  • SSM accessibility advisory committee
  • Soo Greyhounds
  • Soo Thunderbirds
  • Sault Ringette Association
  • Sault Women’s Hockey League
  • Sault Female Hockey Association
  • Lake Superior Figure Skating Club
  • Sault Major Hockey Association
  • Soo Pee Wee Hockey League

If approved by City Council, tendering for the project will be completed within six weeks.

Construction would take 14 to 16 months.

The Sault's new twin-pad arena would open in September 2022.

"Due to grant support not being approved, the project will now require full funding by the city utilizing long-term debt financing," says Shelley Schell, the city's chief financial officer and treasurer.

Adds Vair: "The city is in a fortunate position that the debt from two previous arena projects will be paid off in 2022. The debt-servicing costs for the twin-pad project will be below the debt-servicing costs for these previous projects and result in no impact to the levy.

Next week's City Council meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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