By Dale Cory
The front-end loaders are busy moving dirt. The forms are getting prepared for pouring concrete. And the carpenters are busy assembling makeshift walls.
If you’ve attended any events recently at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex, you will be well aware of the fact the 30-plus year old building looks more like a construction zone than a sports arena.
The complex is receiving a much-needed renovation that will provide user groups with larger dressing rooms, and sports fans with more lobby room in which to mingle and stand in line for the concession.
“We have limited dressing rooms for two ice surfaces, and older dressing rooms which lack toilets and showers. They are kind of run down, so we wanted to refurbish the ones we’ve got, and make them bigger so they can house more players,” explained Cindy Bowie, director of community services for the Town of Ponoka. “We’re also putting a new addition on so we’ve got four extra dressing rooms, plus two extra on the west side. We’ll have bigger, cleaner dressing rooms.”
Hockey teams will be happy to see bigger dressing rooms. Fans will soon have access to a much larger lobby area to mingle.
“It will be a lot larger. Everyone has said it’s way too small. We can’t house as many people and the concession area doesn’t have sufficient space for seating,” says Bowie. “We’re basically doubling the size of the lobby. It will be brighter, and there will be new tiling.”
In the past, when you walked into the lobby, the stairs up to the meeting rooms were located just to your right. Those stairs will be moved farther north in the building, allowing the lobby to increase in size. The meeting room space will also grow.
Bowie is adamant the town wanted to begin the project several months ago, but the start of construction was delayed, hence the construction zone at a time when the complex is just getting busy with winter sports such as hockey, figure skating and curling.
“We’re hoping to have the north addition done right after Christmas, and then move into the other dressing rooms on the east side and start working on them. We’re looking to have the whole project done by March,” says Bowie. “We’re also looking at upgrading the washrooms between the area and the curling rink, and updating them with more stalls, which should be done in April.”
The cost of the project will come in at around $1.5 million. Ponoka residents will be relieved to find out the complex renovations will not result in higher taxes.
“We’re using existing funds — grants that are coming in, that sort of thing.”
From a users’ standpoint, the renovations, although inconvenient, are welcomed.
Following are what some of the key user groups are saying about the arena complex renovations…
“I think all the renovations will benefit everyone who uses the rink. We do need a bigger lobby and we need better and cleaner dressing rooms. It’s time we’ve had this renovation. (As for our own dressing room) We haven’t discussed any of that yet with the town. Hopefully we can keep the same dressing room, and have some remodelling done to make it bigger for us.”
– Ponoka Stampeders president Ken Kinley.
“Ponoka Minor Hockey is thrilled to see the renovations underway at the arena complex. While there’ll be some inconveniences during the first part of this hockey season, the long-term changes like the increased space in the lobby and the additions of more functional dressing rooms will be advantageous to minor hockey in Ponoka.
A renovated arena will provide a renewed sense of pride in players, parents and volunteers alike. We all look forward to a timely and successful completion of the project.”
– Ponoka Minor Hockey Association president Mark Prefontaine.
“I think it will benefit the whole skating community. It’s been a long time since we’ve renovated. It might mean we could hold fun meets at the rink. We’re glad that they’re doing it.”
– Alice Neuwland, president, Ponoka Skating Club