Contest raises arena questions


Sir: Kudos to Chad Peterson and all the people who have worked so hard to have Chatham-Kent named as Kraft Hockeyville Canada.

Here’s hoping their efforts culminate in the $100,000 worth of upgrades to Chatham Memorial Arena and an NHL pre-season exhibition game to be played here. The community was one of 10 finalists in the contest and the winner was to be chosen through on-line voting.

The potential win for Chatham-Kent leaves the council of the municipality in somewhat of a quandary, however. If money does come for updates to Memorial Arena, I assume that means that a new arena is out of the questions at least for the foreseeable future. After all, it would seem foolish to make several thousand dollars in repairs to a facility – regardless of who is footing the bill – then level it for a new facility within a few years.

There are folks who have suggested for some time that Memorial Arena should be replaced by a new arena.  Memorial Arena was built in 1949 and has been home to hockey players such as NHLers Ken Houston, and T. J. Brodie and champion figure skater Shae Lynn Bourne.

Those people would suggest that a twin pad with seating for about 3,000 would serve the Chatham Junior Maroons, minor hockey and skating to name just a few activities.

Recently, Chatham was courting an Ontario Hockey League franchise, but it seems that any potential candidate requires a much better facility, with a seating capacity of at least 5,000 be built or at least get a commitment that one would be erected.

It seems that making all these repairs to a building that is 60-plus years old would preclude the building of any new facility whether an OHL team comes here or not.

If Chatham-Kent does win the grand prize, I would like to suggest a couple of ways to spend the money.

One would be to install a new heating system. I have often attended games in which the heat would click off automatically leaving patrons freezing on a cold winter night. Heat is only available, such as it is, at one end of the arena, while patrons at the other end are left to shiver.

Another good way to spend money would be to fix the elevator system maybe to something that would allow fans to use it without having to bother the volunteer security guards who already have enough to do.

Washrooms and concession stands are other potential areas, and I’m sure others could think of many more.

If Memorial Arena is to remain the major rink in Chatham-Kent, council should be willing to chip in funds besides the Kraft money (and the $200,000 it spent last year to upgrade dressing rooms) to do things up right.

Brian Cleeve



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