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Editorial: The waiting game continues

An opinion piece on the timeline for the new scoreboard for Affinity Place.
The current score clock at Affinity Place was installed in 2011.

It seems like we’ve been waiting a long time for the new score clock to arrive at Affinity Place. 

The idea of having the latest in video board technology, hanging from Affinity Place’s ceiling, was first discussed in the summer of 2021, when representatives of the Centennial Cup committee pitched the idea to Estevan city council. It was to be the legacy project of the Centennial Cup in Estevan.

Ultimately, council decided to wait until enough tickets were sold for the tournament to be profitable before giving the tournament committee the green light to purchase the clock.

It meant that the unit would not be in place in time for the tournament, but you can’t fault council for erring on the side of caution on that front, especially since there was still a lot of uncertainty at the time due to COVID-19. 

The hope was that the scoreboard would be installed this summer for hockey season. That didn’t happen, either.  

And now it appears it’s not going to happen for another seven months, as we have to wait for the score clock to arrive in Canada (apparently it’s still in China) and then for it to be installed. 

In a normal year, Affinity Place is a busy events centre. From the middle of September to the middle of March, it’s hopping with activity during afternoons, evenings and weekends with hockey and figure skating. And you’ll still find ice sports happening in late March and much of April.

If you don’t see hockey players or figure skaters on the ice, then there are two reasons. One, there’s a special event happening, such as the upcoming St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation Festival of Trees in November. The other reason would be the Christmas/New Year’s break, when there is less happening.

This season, though, is even busier than normal. The 2023 Scotties/Tankard women’s and men’s provincial curling championships will be here in January and February, affecting the scheduled ice users for more than three weeks.

Now, let’s be clear: we’re not opposed to this event. We see the tremendous opportunity associated with this event, the people it will attract and the economic spinoff it will carry. 

It will create opportunities to have other big curling events here in the future. There are some curling competitions so big that they have to be held at Affinity Place. The Scotties-Tankard is one of them. 

Hopefully, though, the next big curling event at Affinity won’t impact users like the Scotties-Tankard. You can also understand why hockey organizations and others are flustered they won’t be able to access Affinity for so long.

Affinity’s regular ice schedule is compressed this year. You don’t have any wiggle room. If you try to squeeze the installation in, and something goes awry, then you’ve got a problem, and you’ll have users who will be even more agitated. 

Even with the two-phase installation approach that was discussed, there’s no guarantee it would have worked. The only window of opportunity was during the Christmas holidays, when most teams take a break. But then you’re going to dash the Christmas break plans of a lot of people. 

And it’s going to take a while to teach people how to operate the clock.

It’s too bad, because the curling that we’re going to have here early next year would have looked great on those video panels. So would hockey. So would have the Dallas Smith concert that Estevan earned through the Sirius-XM Music Towns competition back in September.  

When Affinity Place first opened in the spring of 2011, the overhead score clock with video panels was one of the cool creature comforts of the facility. We could see instant replays. The officials might not have liked it, because sometimes their mistakes were exposed, but there were so few facilities in junior A hockey that had this kind of a luxury. 

And it should be noted that the score clock still works fine. It’s still big and bright and you have no reason to expect it won’t function for the rest of the season, or several more years. But the chance for an upgrade presented itself, so why not jump at the chance?  

Like everything else, technology has changed and evolved. There are better units out there, which will improve the in-game experience of fans.

Yeah, it’s disappointing that it won’t be installed until the spring.

Hopefully, this will be the last delay for this project.