The City of Trail will leave the ice in the Cominco Arena in until the end of April next year, allowing the Smoke Eaters to run a camp and a couple of tournaments.
But city council voted this week to revisit the arrangement next year, concerned that it could eventually interfere with Silver City Days, which also uses the arena.
The team requested the longer ice season partly because of changes to the BCHL schedule that will seek the regular season and playoff start later than before.
The ice normally comes out between the end of March and mid-April, depending on how deep the team’s playoff run is, but for the past two years the ice stayed in later due to havoc that COVID played on the hockey schedule.
That did not cause a problem with Silver City Days because it has been cancelled the past two years, but Mayor Lisa Pasin says they have to be mindful of accommodating both groups.
“As a council and a city, we value the Smoke Eaters very much,” she said. “But the community values the Smoke Eaters and Silver City Days.”
Pasin noted that the cancellation of this year’s event, due to COVID restrictions that limited the lead time for the event, resulted in “a lot of backlash from the community because the event is very important to them.”
The event, normally held for a few days leading up to Mother’s Day, uses the arena floor for an indoor sidewalk cafe. Council heard that it takes some time to melt the ice and make the floor available.
Staff say that should not be a problem in 2023, as Mother’s Day is not until May 14, but in future it could be a tight turnaround.
“It would be very difficult for council to abridge, amend, change Silver City Days where one year you had the facility used, the next year you didn’t,” Pasin said.
“It’s not only difficult for the planning committee, I think you would create a lot of disappointment in the community.
“As a council we’re here to look at our facilities for the global benefit of the community. Our Memorial Centre is used very heavily during Silver City Days for the global benefit of our community, not just for hockey.”
Pasin said she didn’t think an equivalent space existed for the sidewalk cafe that would have room for vendors and “hundreds of people in a shaded area” out of the sun or rain.
Councillor Carol Dobie wondered if some combination of the gymnasium or old library space in the Trail Memorial Centre could work, but was told vendors’ power requirements would make that challenging.
Council unanimously agreed to staff’s recommendation to grant the Smoke Eaters’ request for 2023 but to revisit it the following summer, rather than making the change permanent.