By Lyonel Doherty
Big repairs to the arena are looming over Oliver Parks and Recreation, which is still crossing its fingers for grant funding.
The society applied for a $7 million grant last year but didn’t get it. However, it is still holding onto hope.
“The grant is not dead, it’s just highly unlikely at this point. We’re waiting. There’s a Hail Mary there; we might get that grant, and that would change everything,” said Parks and Recreation manager Carol Sheridan.
The big repair job is the cooling system (brine lines) under the concrete slab that hosts the ice surface. It is failing, Sheridan said, noting the lines that carry the coolant are falling apart, and so is the concrete.
Sheridan said the lines were put in 50 years ago, and over time they break and start leaking.
The other concern is the roof needs replacing, she pointed out.
In addition, the building, except for the front door and lobby, is completely inaccessible to the physically disabled and the hearing/visually impaired. This is a major issue, she stated.
Sheridan agreed that if you aren’t impaired in any way, you don’t really think about the problem. But it affects a lot of people, she said.
For every person that has an impairment, they have at least four or five family members or friends that won’t go to the facility because it’s not accessible to their loved one.
“One in four people have some sort of disability in Canada; that’s a very large number that could be excluded from these buildings,” Sheridan said.
The other issued impacting the arena is the fact that it (the ice surface) was not constructed to regulation size.
“So, we don’t really have a shot at this time of attracting a high-level hockey team or an academy.”
But the Osoyoos Coyotes and their fans definitely love the smaller arena, Sheridan said.
The manager hopes to engage a consultant to look at the facility’s condition and lifecycle audit to make a recommendation on a long-term business plan (for the arena, community hall and pool).
“I think everyone’s biggest concern is nobody wants the arena to fail.”
Sheridan also wants to engage local stakeholders to determine what they would like to see.
As far as the grant is concerned, she admitted her frustration after working so hard on the application, which was tailor made to reduce the carbon footprint with energy efficiencies.
“There is so much potential for this 50-year-old facility (arena). It was all about meeting Canadian standards for accessibility. After this project we would have met them all.”
Sheridan said Oliver Parks and Recreation is also looking at several capital projects this year, mostly focusing on the community hall.
Much of it is preventative maintenance, while others include upgrading the washrooms (to make them barrier free), replacing the ceiling tiles and repairing the roof.
Another capital project is extending and covering the dugout at Diamond 3.
The new Small Wheels Park will get new lighting, and the washrooms in Rotary Park will see an upgrade.
A grant is also being sought to make the pool lobby and washrooms accessible, Sheridan added.
The grand opening of the Small Wheels Park has been pushed back to May 1 to coincide with Youth Week. Plans include a barbecue, plaque unveiling, music and a visit by Pentagon Boardshop from Penticton.
Oliver Parks and Recreation is planning another exciting event, but this one will be all year long: the 100thanniversary of Oliver in 2021.
The year 1921 is recognized by the Oliver and District Heritage Society as when Oliver officially became a municipality.
Sheridan is hoping that local organizations will put a 100thanniversary spin on their events, just like the Roots and Fruits Expo will do next summer.
The society plans to ask the Town for a $5,000 grant-in-aid to assist in coordinating celebrations.
In other news, Oliver Parks and Recreation will be offering new programing this spring and summer. It’s called “outdoor adventure recreation,” a partnership with Camp Seacrest to offer week-long campouts for youth.