Arena situation costing minor hockey

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

 Talbot Gardens in Simcoe (File photo)

Talbot Gardens in Simcoe (File photo)

Through no fault of their own, Simcoe and District Minor Hockey Association executives feel like they've been handed a major penalty.

With a portion of seating at Talbot Gardens unable to be used for safety reasons and council kicking around the idea of a community hub for Norfolk, SDMHA has incurred some major losses.

With only the Simcoe Recreation Centre operating at full capacity, the organization has been forced to cancel one of its premier events, the Demeyere Vic Jackson Memorial Tournament while the Tyler Norrie Memorial Boston Pizza Challenge has just over half the teams it did last year (18-10).

“Teams didn't want to come back,” president Adam Walker said of the events, which are generally a boon for both the organization and the town.

Walker went on to say that while Talbot is highly regarded within the minor hockey community, the Rec Centre brings a different reaction from opposing parents and players.

“The facilities aren't the best anymore,” added organization contact Sarah VanNetten. “And I think there's bigger tournaments that centres want to go to rather than come to ours.”

Walker estimates that the situation will cost minor hockey between $10-15k this year alone, and at this point, it's unclear how the executive will fill the void.

“We'll have to come up with some ideas,” said VanNetten. “We don't have anything in the works. We've tried dances in the past but that hasn't really been too successful.”

Raising registration fees isn't something the organization is looking at VanNetten continued.

“We try to keep in line with other centres and we might be a tiny bit more but not by much,” she said. “I do feel we still offer a good program and value for your money, but our facilities just aren't appealing. Nobody likes the Rec Centre. I sure hope that the Hub is still a feasible option at some point in the future because otherwise, we're just going to keep getting worse as opposed to better.”

Issues arose at the end of last season when it was announced that the concrete foundation of some parts of Talbot was crumbling. At first, Norfolk County closed the entire spectator area but after further inspection deemed some sections of the bowl seating safe for use. The estimated price tag for seating repairs has been pegged at $95,000.

What came next was a wave of support for a community hub which might include two skating pads at the southeast end of town. With the Simcoe Seniors' Centre having been deemed unsafe and the Annaleise Carr Aquatic Centre's constant ventilation issues, proponents hope a new facility would also include a place for seniors and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Council is currently in the process of holding public forums across the county so area residents can suggest what is the best course of action going forward.

“It would be nice if we could keep up with the standards of society,” VanNetten said. “Physical fitness is such a priority these days with young kids and adults ... it would be nice if we had a facility that emphasized that we're looking at keeping a healthy community and looking to the future. You can only put money into a dead horse so long before you get something new.”.