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Pitched removal of second ice surface at Banff Fenlands dries up

The Town of Banff will look to the community for feedback on having a potential fieldhouse as a stand-alone facility, or a temporary installation the Fenlands. Elected officials made it clear this week they have no appetite for removing one of the two ice arenas at the Fenlands rec centre.
Banff Fenlands Rec Centre. RMO FILE PHOTO
BANFF – The Town of Banff will seek community input for a potential fieldhouse addition at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre, but not at the cost of its second ice surface.

On Tuesday (Oct. 13), Banff administration was directed by council during the Governance and Finance Committee meeting to gauge community interest on having a fieldhouse as a stand-alone building or temporary installation at the Fenlands.

“I think what we’re saying is we will have two ice surfaces,” said Councillor Chip Olver. “When it’s not being used for programming with all our winter users, that second ice surface can have other uses that we do want to explore with the community. Is there a need for a stand-alone fieldhouse that can have a year-round use so that things that happen at the fieldhouse can happen in the winter time?”

In a motion that was passed in a 6-1 vote, which also directed administration to develop options for community amenities that could be included into the recently vacated and underutilized areas of the rec facility, it is clear that the two permanent ice rink surfaces at the Fenlands are not going anywhere.

“I like the idea of a fieldhouse in some form, but I don’t support the concept of replacing the second ice surface,” said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen.

The Town’s exploratory ideas of determining what’s the best use of Arena 2 came after the sale and departure Banff Hockey Academy (BHA) in May. The hockey academy’s lease was terminated at Fenlands where a dedicated wing was built with offices, dressing rooms, a physiotherapy room, storage, and three high performance rooms.

Several options have been brought forward by administration, including retrofitting the arena into a year-round fieldhouse and multi-purpose hub. However, the pitch received blowback from the ice sports community, which argued ice time is already at a deficiency in the Bow Valley, among other reasons.

Administration requested direction from council this week with a specific note to determine if there is interest in using the facility’s vacant west wing as an opportunity to consider other potential recreational needs at the Fenlands that until now haven’t been possible to explore.

Alison Gerrits, Banff’s director of community services, reported additional reasons to consider amenities at the Fenlands include funding support from the Wim & Nancy Pauw Foundation; helping to adjust the operating model; assisting in a lack of indoor community space; and addressing weaknesses highlighted in the Banff Recreation Facility Master Plan.

“Those weaknesses included the fact that current space configuration at the Fenlands are geared towards winter sports, rinks and curling and there is limited summer use as a result,” Gerrits said. “It also identified a low percentage of multi-functional spaces and it was not performing as an essential complete community centre.”

The Fenlands rec centre, operated by the Town of Banff, includes two ice rinks, four curling sheets, offices, concourse, and a concession and lounge area.

Additionally, Gerrits said the Town has received three queries related to the potential operation of a sports study hockey program, but any program would have to go through Hockey Alberta for licensing, and applications for the 2021-22 season licences have passed.

With the removal of the second ice surface off the table, administration was directed to get community feedback on a potential addition of a fieldhouse as a stand-alone facility or temporary installation, and future use of underutilized areas.

A date for the public input consultation has not been set.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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