Lights out at the Bothwell Arena

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(Image courtesy Google Maps)

By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative

Just five days after Chatham-Kent council voted to keep the ice in the Bothwell Arena, 20 hockey players stood out in the cold after booking ice.

Municipal staff, they say, never showed up to let them in.

It’s a problem arena advocates say has happened before.

On Nov. 23, Chatham-Kent council reversed a controversial decision to remove the ice in the Bothwell Arena.

A group of young men say they booked two hours of ice time for a game of shinny in Bothwell on Nov. 28. They’re not sure what day they called to book the ice. It’s not clear if anyone from the municipality contacted the group to move the request ahead.

More than 20 players showed up that day, only to find the building in darkness with no staff in sight.

Bothwell resident John Heyink, says two of his sons were among the group.

“The ice was booked but nobody showed up,” he says, adding the players were fully dressed and only needed to put on their skates.

The news comes as no surprise to Bob Hamilton, head of the Bothwell Area Recreation Advisory Committee.

“Things like that are always happening,” Hamilton says, adding user groups are continuously fighting a losing battle when it comes to accessing the arena.

When contacted regarding the issue, Jeff Bray, Manager of Parks and Open Spaces, says someone had contacted the municipality about booking the ice, but the individual didn’t put down any money for the hours or pay any insurance.

In an e-mail message, Bray says there was no record of any ice booked at Bothwell for Nov. 28. although someone had inquired about it Nov. 20.

However, because there was no official transaction, staff did not book anyone to cover it.

Bray adds that in the three years since he’s held the position, it’s the first he’s heard of someone booking the ice and staff not showing up at the arena to open the doors.

He says he’d like people to get in contact with him if that is a reoccurring problem.

Hamilton and others says it is indeed a reoccurring problem, adding there’s definitely an issue with miscommunication between user groups and the municipality.

Hamilton adds when Chatham-Kent council originally voted to remove the ice, council and municipal officials were under the impression only five hours of ice time was booked at Bothwell per week.

That not the case, he says, as user groups were — and are — looking to book around 20 hours of ice time.

But, he says, there’s trouble getting the message across.

Hamilton says there are a number of user groups who are ready and willing to rent the ice, but there has to be a better process.

“We have to stop these kinds of problems,” Hamilton says. “We can’t keep having this ongoing fight (threat of the arena closing) every three or four years.”

The Thamesville Herald

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