Council ponders closure of sinking arena

“It’s a white elephant. We’re just paying money into it.”



Iqaluit’s AWG arena could be mothballed this spring if Iqaluit city councillors follow through on discussions last week.

Or the building could switch purposes and turn into spill-over office space for Iqaluit city hall, a storage space for old papers, and a new parking garage for the city’s heavy equipment.

And if the building does become the city’s new garage, it’s unlikely to ever re-open as an arena.

Iqaluit city councillors discussed these options as they searched for ways to trim money from the city’s draft 2006 budget, which they must submit to the Government of Nunavut by the end of the month.

The city expects a shortfall of about $620,000. That will be passed along to ratepayers through increased water rates and taxes, unless the city cuts those costs from its operating budget.

Closing the sinking arena could be one option, said deputy mayor Glenn Williams. Operating costs for the building run to about $335,000 a year.

“If we can’t fix it, why are we putting more money into it?” he asked.

In December council heard that a permanent fix for the arena could cost $750,000. That would involve building a new foundation supported by metal posts. Currently the building rests on a soupy mess of mud and rock, causing it to sink unevenly for years.

“It’s a white elephant. We’re just paying money into it. We’re not getting anything for it,” said Coun. Simanuk Kilabuk. “I think it would be a whole lot better if we just shut it down, or mothballed it.”

The city’s youth centre is currently located inside. That could be relocated to the curling rink if the AWG arena closed, suggested the city’s chief administrative officer, Ian Fremantle.

John Hussey, the finance director, pointed out that some costs can’t be cut, even if council decides to mothball the arena. That includes heating, power, and maintenance contracts the city has signed. He estimated continued costs at about $160,000 a year.

“We’re not going to eliminate these costs, but they’ll be reduced,” said Hussey.

City staff will present the cost savings of several options to council today.

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