St. Lambert votes to save its arena
Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013 11:48AM EDT
Two years after the city of St. Lambert decided to demolish a historic hockey arena, councillors have now voted in favour of emergency repairs to extend its life.
The move follows multiple protests and an angry outcry from residents who wanted to prevent the building's demolition.
"I just want to have a rink I just want to play hockey is all I really want to do," said Jonas Von Eschen.
He was one of dozens of young hockey players who packed into Monday evening's council meeting in order to make sure they could play in St. Lambert next autumn and winter.
The Eric Sharp arena, built in 1966 with a cedar plank ceiling supported by wooden beams, is unlike most arenas in Canada. Players say it sounds different, feels different, and has an old-time atmosphere.
However spectacular the roof and ceiling are, the building itself is in poor shape with leaking showers, cracked floors, and only three rows of stands so shallow that spectators invariably hit each other with the slightest movement.
In 2011 the city of St. Lambert decided that even though it would cost more money than refurbishing the structure, demolishing the arena and building a new, larger building that could be open to skaters year-round was the best option.
Under the original plan the arena was to have been demolished this past April, with a new building constructed over the next year.
However many residents opposed the plan and signed a petition to save the building. Some said Mayor Philippe Brunet always wanted to build a new facility instead, and could easily have taken steps over the years to maintain the building.
"If they'd only put some money to refurbish the arena and keep it up to standard then they wouldn't have put forward this new arena project that citizens objected to," said Steven Parry.
The repairs to floors and walls should be completed this summer, with the rink re-opening next fall.