Twinning of Pason Centennial Arena proposed
Okotoks: extra ice would eliminate minor hockey cap
By: Roxanne Blackwell
| Posted: Wednesday, May 07, 2014 06:43 pm
With rinks running at capacity and a registration cap on minor hockey, another sheet of ice is being proposed for Okotoks.
The twinning of Pason Centennial Arena was presented to town council on April 28, a project that Okotoks indoor facilities operator Chris Thompson said is desperately needed.
“We just don’t have enough space for the people who want to sign up, and we can’t have anymore bookings come in because we’re completely full,” he said.
The project would include 350 seats for the additional NHL-size ice surface, which would run off of the existing mechanical plant. The expansion has a projected cost of $10.5 million if completed in 2016.
Okotoks minor hockey association has committed to raising $300,000 in the next five years to put towards the rink, something operations co-ordinator Jamie Steer said is common place for the association.
“From Seaman to the start of Centennial, and when they re-did Murray and Piper, we’ve always done our best to help contribute because we are the main user,” he said.
If the project does go ahead, Steer says the ice won’t go to waste.
“It’s much needed in the town of Okotoks. We are a young community with an incredible growing hockey association,” he said. “If you look, our biggest numbers are at our young ages.”
Steer had to make the difficult decision to cap that number two years ago, as they didn’t have the facilities to take on all of the kids who wanted to play.
“Its really tough. In any community you want to introduce kids to minor sports. You want to make sure they have the opportunity to play in their hometown,” he said.
But Steer said the registration cap was in the best interests of the young players.
“You don’t want to say no to anyone, but if we wouldn’t have said no, and had added 150 more people, the quality wouldn’t be hockey. You can’t have one practice a week and develop players,” he said.
Even with the registration cap in place, ice is often divided into halves or thirds so multiple teams can practice at the same time.
Peewee coach Greg Krebs said it’s the youth who suffer the consequences.
“They don’t get the best practices because they’re doing half ice. I know Bantam kids doing half ice and those kids are massive,” Krebs said. “They don’t get the development they need from a coaching point of view.”
And Krebs said when it’s game time against other leagues, the practice time shows.
“When we play kids from Edmonton, you can see they’re a bit further ahead skill wise because of the extra ice time they get,” he said.
But it isn’t just hockey kids who are missing out. Krebs said the registration cap is steering entire families away from Okotoks.
“I know a lot of good hockey families from Calgary wanted to come to Okotoks, but they didn’t come because they didn’t know if they could get their kids into hockey, so they went to Cochrane instead,” Krebs said.
Lloyd Smith, Okotoks recreation facilities manager, said that the additional ice would eliminate the registration cap for at least two or three years.
Although minor hockey is the biggest user of the rinks, they aren’t the only ones who would benefit from additional ice. Smith said currently it’s a balancing act between all of the various groups including minor hockey, adult hockey, figure skating and public skate.
“This community is absolutely amazing. I’ve been in recreation for over 30 years and I’ve never seen a community where all of the user groups are so respectful of each other and helpful in creating an equitable distribution.”
Okotoks also boasts one of the largest female hockey programs in the province with more than 175 girls in the league, which could partly be contributed to the lack of a ringette league in town. Smith said with additional ice time, ringette and other programs like speed skating could be considered in the future. With the town population cap lifted, Smith said all of the town’s recreation programs need to be reconsidered.
“We’re moving to a population of who knows, 50, 60, even 80,000?” Smith said. “I think in the very near future you will have a recreation master plan presented.”