Plans to redevelop the Ian Stewart Complex at the University of Victoria have community organizations worried about the impending loss of ice time at the rink.
The university is planning on tearing down the existing buildings at the complex and ice rink to build a “mixed-use university district” that will feature commercial space and housing for the community.
“Over the last couple of years, as we all know, housing has become more and more of an issue both in the region, as well as in the province,” Mike Wilson, director of campus planning and sustainability, told CHEK News Wednesday.
“We hope to provide this site as an opportunity to provide housing solutions and more supply in the region.”
Built in the 1970s, UVic purchased the complex in 1991 and used it as its primary recreation center until 2015.
However, with the completion of the Center for Athletics, Recreation, and Special Abilities, staff and athletic uses were transferred to the main campus.
“The majority of the facility is vacant, so we are looking to address some of the deferred maintenance through the redevelopment.” Wilson said.
He added the redevelopment plans are still in very early stages, meaning it will take a few years to fine-tune plans, conduct public consultations and build the new facility.
The university plans to operate the ice arena until 2026 in order to provide sufficient time for existing users to transition programs to other facilities.
The announcement has come across as a little off-side for community groups who rely on the complex’s ice rink.
Teri Kerr, hockey mom and Victoria Racquet Club volunteer, told CHEK News a lot of people use the ice rink every day.
She said the club’s hockey association has about 200 players and the skating club has another 200 skaters who will all be looking for open ice when they’re displaced by construction.
“Not to mention the old timers, the men’s league, all different types of community groups, even the Vikes and intermurals at UVic. Where are all these kids going to skate?” Kerr asked.
Available ice time is an ongoing issue, according to Kerr.
She said there are many hockey associations of all age groups as well as other rink sports in the area, but not enough ice sheets.
For Kerr and volunteers like her, finding another rink to play at will be a daunting task.
“We can’t infringe on other minor hockey associations. There are boundaries, draw zones, ect.” she explained.
“The closest rink is Oak Bay and it’s packed, you can’t get ice there. You have [G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre] at Tillicum, then it’s Panorama, Juan de Fuca, Q Centre, Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre and it has all the things that happen at Save-On. So losing an ice sheet is a real hit to our community.”
Kerr said user groups are already getting together to figure out where they can go or what their next steps should be, adding the future is currently very unclear.
She hopes the situation sparks municipalities like Saanich to consider building more rinks around the region to ensure everyone has a place to skate.