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Arena user groups frustrated by delays

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 23/02) - Yellowknife user groups are frustrated, concerned and disappointed about the delays in construction at the new arena, and about not knowing when the new ice surface will actually open.

The delays have forced the city to bring ice users together to dicker out a deal on ice time. One of the options is delaying the entire season for some groups, such as Old-Timer or rec hockey.

Another is to create a swapping system where one group has a regular practice schedule one week, then cedes time to another group the following week. That system was used two years ago when the Gerry Murphy arena closed down and groups only had the Yellowknife Community Arena.

A meeting to discuss the options had not been scheduled as of press time.

"It's a real dilemma. The whole community is facing real problems getting enough ice time," said Dave Gilday, coach with the Yellowknife Speed-Skating Club. "The ability to schedule with only one arena instead of two for the month of September is going to be very difficult for sports, especially those training kids to go to the Canada Winter Games."

The Winter Games are planned for next February, and Gilday said the Yellowknife competitors will be up against others who will be practising as much as five times a week. Here, speed-skaters will spend more time off the ice, doing simulated work in the gym, strength training and aerobics.

"We won't let the program slow down because of this," said Gilday.

"It's disappointing. We'd sure like to be in there on schedule, but that's life, I guess," said Teresa Lachowski, president of the Yellowknife Skating Club.

She said the swapping system is an alternative, but not a great one.

"When the Gerry Murphy was closed there for a while ... it was very confusing to the parents. ... I'm hoping it's not delayed too terribly long -- a week or a week and a half would be less detrimental to us than if it was delayed a month or two months."

For Kevin Stapleton, president of the Yellowknife Minor Hockey League, the delays and cost overruns have been galling.

"A lot of the minor hockey people are frustrated that this wasn't done four years ago," he said. "Had it been done four years ago I don't think we'd be over budget."

But, he said, "I'd rather they take their time and finish this rink right than rush through it and make mistakes."