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What will Pioneer Arena closure mean for ice users?

The closure of the Pioneer Arena after this season, announced last week by the City of Castlegar and Regional District of Central Kootenay, to make way for a mixed-use development will leave the city with a single sheet of ice. We asked four user groups for their reaction. Castlegar Minor Hockey said they would first discuss the matter with their board, but here is what three other groups told us.

Castlegar Skating Club

President Nina Glowalla said the announcement was “quite a bummer” and she didn’t see it coming, although once the emotion settled “it’s not that big a surprise. The Pioneer was obviously at end of life for quite some time. We would rather see it come down instead of having someone being injured.”

The club has about 100 members ages three to 17 in its four programs and uses both facilities. Glowalla said the Pioneer will be mostly missed by their competitive figure skaters who use the latter to prepare for testing and competitions.

While Glowalla said they are still digesting the news, she wants to ensure the various user groups work together.

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“This will require quite a bit of compassion, patience, adjustment and compromise from all ice user groups,” she said. “We’re not in this alone.

“I would hope every organization takes the news home and looks in house first. What are potential adjustments we can make, like restructuring our groups in age distribution?”

“It feels like no one will get out of this without any cuts of ice time so we don’t want to start fighting each other. We are in this together, so we’ll get through this together.”

The skating club uses the rec complex on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:15 to 7:45 p.m. and the Pioneer on Friday and Saturday afternoons for two hours each.

She said they will spend the next 10 months looking at how they might adjust some of those times.

The Pioneer closure is the second recent blow for local ice users following the early closure of the complex last season to replace the arena floor.

Glowalla said that led them to co-operate with other clubs in other communities and seek ice time in Nelson and Fruitvale, something they may consider again.

“They finished the construction earlier than anticipated so we could start our regular season, which made us happy … for two months, and then the next thing came along.”

Glowalla said the RDCK told them they will do their best to accommodate ice users and keep the complex open longer depending on use.

“I think this is all we can expect for every party involved to do their best to accommodate as many skaters and users as possible,” she said.

Glowalla also said ice user groups already work together. For example, the Rebels support the skating club by teaching the CanSkate program. They also partnered with minor hockey to do an audio upgrade at the Pioneer.

She also noted that Cranbrook has recently gone through a similar arena closure and wonders if the cities of Castlegar and Cranbrook and RDCK and RDEK can get together and learn from each other.

Castlegar Gentlemen’s Hockey League

The head of Castlegar’s men’s recreational hockey league says “the writing was on the wall” for the Pioneer.

“They’ve been doing minor upgrades over the last few years to keep things running, but it was inevitable that that building would have be taken down,” says Castlegar Gentlemen’s Hockey League president Brett Heaven.

While he says it will be a challenge to adjust schedules to accommodate ice user groups, he thinks the future use of the site as a mixed-use development combining medical professionals’ offices and housing represents “progress for the community.”

His league, which consists of 85 to 100 players on four teams, uses the rec complex on Sunday nights and the Pioneer Arena Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Each team plays one midweek and one weekend game per week, for a total of about six hours per week between both facilities.

Games at the complex start at 7:15 and 8:45 p.m. while games at the Pioneer don’t start until 9 or 9:15 p.m.

Heaven agrees prime ice time should go to younger hockey player or figure skaters.

“We understand the younger ice users should be getting the earlier times,” he says. “You can’t expect young kids to be out on the ice at the times we are.”

But he’s not sure how much later his players would be willing to begin their games.

“I think we’re at the brink right now. It would be tough to get people to come out to games at 10:30 at night. Everybody has jobs and families so I think 9 o’clock would pretty much be the limit to where we could start our games.”

He said over the years they’ve slowly been bumped back and as it is they have a hard time getting people to come to all of their games.

Castlegar Rebels

While the Castlegar Rebels don’t use the Pioneer Arena, president Mike Johnstone expects the consolidation of ice use onto one sheet to have some effect on them. But he’s not sure what that will look like.

“We’re trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said. “There’s no doubt we’re all going to have to work together.”

The Rebels play most of their home games on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays with occasional mid-week match-ups. Johnstone said he doesn’t expect changes to game nights or start times, but they may have to shuffle their practice schedule a bit.

“We practice during the middle of the day, so perhaps we won’t be affected as much as some of the other programs but I’m sure there will be some movement,” he said.

Johnstone added he isn’t surprised by the Pioneer’s impending closure.

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