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10 days for icing

Arena users scramble to schedule ice times

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 23/02) - City officials now believe the arena won't be complete until the beginning of October, or about two weeks later than the Sept. 20 target date.

At least one city councillor, Dave Ramsay, isn't counting on the arena to open until Halloween, or even later.

"I think it could be anywhere from after Oct. 15 to Nov. 15," he said. "It's wide open."

The arena is about $2.5 million over budget. Worker shortages at the construction site have pushed back the estimated completion date for construction.

Grant White, the city director of community services, said concrete for one pad of the rink will be poured either today or Monday. After that, it takes 28 days to cure and another 10 days before a useable layer of ice can be built up. That means the earliest the rink could open is Oct. 1.

"It's one of those things -- you never know," he said.

And even when it meets minimum occupancy requirements, the building won't be complete.

White says at least two change rooms should be completed and most of the work on washrooms and the lobby should be finished.

However, not all of the bleachers will be installed and work will remain on the second floor.

White predicts the entire project should be finished by November.

Bartering for time

One group is already thinking about what happened four years ago, on April 15, 1998, when a plebiscite on borrowing money for a new arena was turned down by ratepayers.

At the time, 43 per cent of voters turned down a council request to borrow $2.8 million to build an arena estimated to cost between $10-$12 million.

This Sept. 10, the polls will again open to ratepayers to decide whether the city should borrow $1.65 million to finish an arena that will now cost well over $13 million.

A lobbying campaign has already begun to convince Yellowknifers that the cost is worth it. The arena development committee has created a pamphlet detailing the costs and benefits of borrowing the cash. It was distributed by ice user groups early this week.

The pamphlet is "essentially what we feel the facility will bring to the community," said Gary Vivian, the committee's chair.

"What it will bring business-wise and visitor-wise. It will be a tremendous impetus to any business in town."

Vivian predicts a yes vote this time around. However, the outcome of the vote will be essentially negligible, he said.

"The bottom line is that even if the ratepayers should decide for the city not to go through debenture, the city's too committed not to finish the first pad. They're going to get the 1.6 million from someplace."

Now one of the big questions remaining is where to raise the estimated $3.4 million necessary to finish the second pad at the new arena. To do that, Vivian's committee has been trying to secure advertising dollars for parts of the arena.

So far, the advertising sales have not been strong. However, the committee expects to make a major sponsorship announcement as early as this week.

That could mean that someone has purchased naming rights to either one of the two rinks, selling for $250,000 apiece for 10 years, or to the entire arena, which is on the block for $500,000 for a decade.