September 27, 2020

By JOSH BURY

The upcoming renovations to the Conestoga rec centre will likely result in the permanent removal of the ice rink.
Mike Dinning, vice-president of student affairs, said that while it is impossible to say for certain that it will be removed, saving the rink is not a priority in the renovation of the rec centre because the school has already looked at the possible costs of maintaining, updating and preserving it.
“We’re looking very seriously at the future of the ice rink as part of this … if I was a betting person, I believe we’ve done our due diligence and we know how we’re moving forward … I’d say 95 per cent we know the direction we’re going in.”
Dinning added the caveat that if an architect were to offer evidence to the contrary, they would take that into account.
“So it would be inappropriate of us to say ‘absolutely, we’re knocking down that ice rink’ … If an architect comes in and tells us based on their analysis and design that it’d be a real problem knocking that thing down … you’ve got to take the input.”
Dinning is part of the management team for the rec centre renovation project, which also includes CSI president Jason Wright, CSI general manager Janie Renwick, and Paul Osborne, executive director of marketing, corporate communications, athletics and alumni.
A request for proposals will be issued to architects who want to bid for the right to design the new recreation centre. The request includes an evaluation process for prospective bidders and sets timelines.
“What happens is, a document is put together that articulates the scope of the project, to define what we’re trying to do in a very broad sense, what we’re trying to accomplish … the process must be open, it must be transparent, and it must be well-defined as to how we make the decision,” Dinning said.
Wright agreed with Dinning about the importance of transparency, adding via e-mail that “we want our students to know the details when they become available.”
The rec centre renovation has several goals — among them, an expansion of facilities to handle the current and future size of the student population, better availability even during peak hours, and the eventual return of men and women’s varsity basketball.
“We added men’s and women’s volleyball a couple years ago, and it’s always been our goal to add men’s and women’s basketball … and we’ve always been limited by our facility,” Dinning said.
While removing the rink may allow for other facilities that could be more popular with students, there are other considerations. Several community groups rent the rink for events and practices.
A letter sent to rink stakeholders on Nov. 1 by Dinning and Osborne states that bookings for the arena will be suspended effective April 7 and notes that the rink is only used by a small fraction of the student population.
“Maintaining the rink would require an immediate investment of several million dollars to retrofit and replace aging infrastructure,” the letter states.
Dinning adds that all of this is pending approval, and, down the road, must be approved by the boards of the college and CSI.
“If we follow normal process and consultation, we believe all those things will be accomplished.”