Dal, SMU, community groups all sharing precious time slots
There are 15 figure skaters, 55 varsity hockey players and over 350 intramural players at Dalhousie University. But these athletes don’t have a rink to call their own.
In April 2012, the university tore down Memorial Arena because of structural roof issues and the LeMerchant Street Mixed-Use Facility is being built in its place.
Dal students are left trekking out to the Halifax Forum to lace up their skates but it’s not stopping them from doing what they love.
There is even an intramural team that makes the 80-minute drive to Halifax every week from the agricultural campus in Truro.
“They don’t have a hockey option out there,” says Sean Fraser, Dal’s senior manager of programs. “So they’ve been able to join in and come down.”
The move to the Forum has affected some groups but not others. The varsity teams haven’t been affected.
“It really hasn’t impacted us at all,” says Dal’s men’s varsity hockey head coach, Chris Donnelly. He says while residence students may have a longer walk to the rink his team doesn’t have a problem.
“Predominantly we have older players, who have vehicles to get around,” says Donnelly.
To solve the problem for the residence students without cars, the university has contracted school buses for its intramural league that leave from the Student Union Building and go to the Forum on residence league nights. Fraser says this works.
He says the popularity of the intramural program has not been affected by the change in venue and the league even has two teams on the waitlist.
“If there was more [ice time] available to rent we would,” says Fraser. That is just not an option.
Ice time at the Forum is already stretched thin.
In addition to intramural games, Dal’s varsity teams train at the Forum, as does the ringette team and the figure skating club. There isn’t always all the ice time the clubs want.
Figuring skating club president Janessa Keans says the ice time her team receives has decreased since moving out of Memorial Arena.
“It’s understandable but it’s not as good,” says Keans. The team gets ice time twice a week instead of four times a week. She says her club has seen enrolment decrease.
She does say the ice that they do get is better maintained than the Memorial Arena, explaining the old Memorial Arena ice was often cut up from hockey players, which is not conducive to figure skating.
Dalhousie also has to share the Forum with community groups and the SMU men’s varsity program.
The SMU Situation
Saint Mary’s University uses the Forum because their on-campus rink, Alumni Arena, is not large enough to be considered standard size.
“It’s not ours but we’re happy with it,” says SMU’s hockey head coach Trevor Stienburg.
While the Forum is a decent ice surface and they have nice offices and dressing rooms, having an ice space on campus would be ideal, says Stienburg.
“It’s not feasible for our students to come to the games,” says Stienburg. “It should be convenient for our students to see our hockey team.”
Getting to the Forum from the SMU campus takes a 15-minute bus ride or a 45-minute walk.
Alumni arena is currently home to the women’s varsity hockey team. While the rink is intimate and convenient for fans, it is small and out of date.
There have been rumours about the future of the arena on SMU campus.
“I’ve personally attended two closing ceremonies for the rink,” says SMU women’s varsity hockey head coach, Chris Larade.
Larade says he’s heard about everything from a new arena going where Alumni arena currently is to a two-pad shared arena with Dal in between the two campuses.
“This is all about the students,” says Stienburg, stressing that whatever decision is made the students must be taken into consideration.
At Dal, the process of building a new arena will take a while.
“We’re looking at the next 30 years of usage,” says Fraser. “We want to make sure it is functional for all of the university needs.”
Fraser says Dal is currently working on finding consultants to determine the best plans for the university. He says this is happening as quickly as possible.
In the meantime for students who want to skate, Dal has put up a list of public skate locations on their website.
At SMU ice facilities are also a priority.
“There are just a lot of people who want to skate,” says Stienburg. “We both as schools need to provide that option for our students.”
Public skates in Halifax near post-secondary campuses