On Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 28), Kamloops council will decide the fate of a proposed outdoor skating rink in Riverside Park.
In a report headed to council’s regular meeting, staff note the city was not successful in securing grant funding for the project, which would see an outdoor skating rink built in the same footprint as the current spray park for use in the wintertime at the downtown green space.
The city had hoped grant funding would cover about three-quarters of the project’s budget.
The rink was part of a Riverside Park project that includes flood-mitigation work, such as raising the elevation of the Rivers Trail to protect the sewer system, and rehabilitating a decades-old spray park area and change room/washroom facility.
Most of the work is expected to cost slightly more than initially thought when the project — estimated then at $5.79 million — first came to council, with estimates better shored up a year later and now as high as $6.15 million, depending on the option to be selected on Tuesday.
The flood-mitigation work is estimated to cost $1.85 million, up from $1.6 million. The city received grant funds in the amount of $750,000 to offset that work.
In addition to flood-mitigation work comes money needed for the recreational component. The cost of the skating rink project — which includes installation of an ice plant and Zamboni storage — is pegged at $4.3 million and staff are presenting council with that and other options to consider.
Council can approve funding the project as discussed last year or opt to replace just the spray park and washroom/change room building at a cost of $3.25 million. That option moves forward without the skating rink, but earmarks $100,000 for “brine lines,” the report states, that would allow the city to add a rink down the road.
Finally, council could approve replacement of the spray park and update, rather than replace, the existing washroom/change room facility for the lowest cost — $1.75 million. Staff are recommending the second option.
Council will have the final say.
Councillors Denis Walsh and Kathy Sinclair voted against the project last year, while Coun. Sadie Hunter was not in attendance for the vote. The remainder of council — Mayor Ken Christian and councillors Dieter Dudy, Dale Bass, Arjun Singh, Bill Sarai and Mike O’Reilly — voted in favour of applying for government money to fund the project.
At the time, the hope was for grant funding to cover about three-quarters of the project (73 per cent of the then-estimated $5.79-million project).
Dudy said at the time that fiscal responsibility was important, but “community health comes above everything else.”
Kelowna and major cities as far away as Amsterdam have outdoor rinks for enjoyment by the public for skating, often areas lit up with twinkly lights and hot chocolate being served.
Some residents, however, have criticized the idea for its potential impact on the park space and the environmental impacts of operating a skating rink during warmer winter days in Kamloops.
The Kamloops Voters Society has argued the timing of the request for the ice rink during the COVID-19 pandemic is unacceptable, due to a time of uncertainty. Walsh agreed, at the time calling installation of a skating rink during the pandemic “ludicrous.”