The West Kootenay Minor Lacrosse Association stands to be the hardest hit organization following an announcement that the Castlegar arena will close next year for six months to install a new floor.
The association’s entire season, from March to mid-July, falls within the window in which the work will be done.
“It’s going to be a big holdback for us,” president Merrick Zemp says. “Not getting in there at all is obviously pretty tough for our season.”
He notes they always had to wait for hockey season to end and for the floor to warm up before they could start using the arena, which put them behind other teams who were already practicing in their facilities.
They have practiced at the Selkirk College gym, but he says they don’t have all the facilities they need, nor the proper set up for lacrosse.
The team has used the Rossland arena for both practices and games when the Castlegar arena has been unavailable due to competing activities, and Zemp says they will have to discuss whether that could be a solution next season.
“The hard part is trying to figure out which direction to go. Do we try to get everybody to Rossland, which has a facility and it’s useful for us? They do have nets and it’s a proper-size place. Do we try to incorporate Nelson into the mix and try to do some practices over there? We have to find enough coaches for each or both of these spots to have functional practices.”
Zemp says he’s mindful that some of their players come from Nelson and the Slocan Valley, who are already travelling to Castlegar, and asking them to go even further “is a challenge.”
Zemp says while they have also held practices in Fruitvale as well, Castlegar is a central location “so it’s a big plus for us to be able to practice here.”
He adds that they would also have to figure out the costs involved, as they budget a year ahead and apply for grants to reduce costs.
The association has 83 players in five age divisions, most of whom practice in Castlegar, although this year they have held some sessions in Rossland for younger players.
The association is holding its wind-up event in Castlegar this weekend. The U16 and U12 teams both head to provincials July 7, and the bantam team the following weekend.
Unrelated to the arena closure, Zemp says they are starting to push for an outdoor multipurpose space that could host lacrosse, road hockey, basketball and other sports. He says they have looked at a few different potential locations and expect to begin fundraising and seeking grants for the project.
The Castlegar Rebels are also trying to figure out what to do for portions of the next two seasons that they will not be able to play at home.
We’ve also left messages for Castlegar Minor Hockey and the Castlegar Skating Club seeking comment.