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Estevan city council approves improvements for Power Dodge Arena

Consultation took place with minor hockey and figure skating before spending was approved.
The Power Dodge Arena will receive upgrades for its boards and spectator area.

ESTEVAN - Estevan city council has decided on the direction it wants to take for the Power Dodge Arena this year.

Council approved spending $250,000 on the spectator area and the boards at Estevan's second rink during Monday night's meeting. The money was included in the 2024 budget, but back in January, the leisure services management team said it would research the best options for the money.

Leisure services manager Erin Wilson said the department met with the Estevan Minor Hockey Association (EMHA) and the Estevan Figure Skating Club on Jan. 18 and received positive insight on use and future needs.

In a report to council, Wilson said several top priority items were established. First, the PDA ice surface, which measures 80 feet by 185 feet, is too small for some hockey age groups and boards do not meet requirements. As kids get older and body contact becomes part of the game, having flex in the boards is more important.

Next, players' boxes are small and need improvement, she said. The boxes are small for many teams and the doors can stick. Coaches have to walk on the ice in order to access the boxes, as do volunteers in the penalty box area.

Also, the viewing space is inadequate. The east side of the arena is not accessible to the public and much of the glass is boarded up.

The access to the referee and players' dressing rooms causes concerns for the wellbeing of players and officials alike, as they are required to walk through fans and parents. The viewing area is tight and fans are often in close proximity to one another. With emotions flaring up in games, this can add to the intensity level. There aren't enough dressing rooms with the growing number of females on teams.

When ice is being split for younger age groups, leisure services finds the dressing rooms are small, as often more than one team needs to share a dressing room, Wilson said.

"When talking to user groups it was clear that addressing the boards in the PDA was of high importance as it would assist in the success of their programming, however, it will not solve all the additional challenges listed above. From the user group perspective, the only way to address all the concerns and provide a better facility for all ages to use for game play would be to start fresh," Wilson wrote.

She noted the EMHA voiced concerns that Bienfait's arena is currently being used as a third ice surface. If that arena were to fail, it would cause added stress on Estevan's two arenas. This would impact league games and tournament-hosting capabilities, she said, as many games are played using that arena.

As part of the proposed board upgrades, Wilson noted the package includes the players' boxes, so those concerns would be addressed.

"They will have side access doors, eliminating the need for coaches and volunteers to walk on the ice surface," she wrote.

Also, the southeast corner will be opened for fan viewing. Glass will be installed and bleachers will be made available for approximately 30 people. The door will be upgraded to allow access for fans interested in watching from that location.

"Fans will need to walk outside the building to access this southeast corner," Wilson wrote.

She pointed out GlobalSport would be able to complete the boards in late June or early July, and the project should require 10-14 days.

Coun. Travis Frank said there is a lot of hope and desire for a new rink, which has been discussed since the Civic Auditorium shut down in the fall of 2017, but it would require a lot of community input and fundraising.

"We're not at that stage, but I'm glad that we're able to appease them and find ways to make this rink that we have work the best that we can within our budget," said Frank.

He's particularly glad to see additional seating can be completed for little money.

Coun. Tony Sernick noted he expressed some resitence to the project and still has reservations, but he sees a clear plan moving forward and others have urged him to support it.

Coun. Lindsay Clark wanted to know if there was a plan from minor hockey to help pay for part of the costs of the upgrades, similar to what has happened with other user groups. Coun. Shelly Veroba recalled that when she was on the minor hockey board, the organization put money into the building, including replacing the lighting.

"They do have an account, and they pick a project, and they usually do help us within the facilities," said Veroba.

Veroba noted there are small projects minor hockey could complete, and should be acknowledged for its help in the past.

Sernick, who sits on the minor hockey board, said there have been talks of supporting new arena fundraising, and there have been large and small projects discussed.

Mayor Roy Ludwig noted that a new arena would likely cost $10 million-$15 million and would need community support.