Memorial Arena

After narrowly escaping the wrecking ball a few years ago, Memorial Arena in Penticton is once again being considered for demolition.

Some of Penticton’s most venerable civic assets – including two arenas, the library and a fire hall – should be demolished or sold and replaced with new facilities to save taxpayers money over the long run, according to a consultant’s report made public Friday by the municipality.

Colliers Project Leaders was hired in 2020 to help the City of Penticton slay its so-called infrastructure deficit: a slew of old buildings and insufficient money to keep them going.

After an 18-month review, Colliers came up with four key recommendations that city council will discuss at its meeting Tuesday and carry a price tag of approximately $100 million:

1. Create a new arts and cultural centre to house the Penticton Art Gallery, along with the library and museum. Sell the buildings they currently occupy to cover the costs of new construction.

2. Demolish both McLaren and Memorial arenas, and build a new twin-rinks facility on the site of the South Okanagan Events Centre. Sell the King Street property where McLaren Arena is located and convert the former Memorial Arena site into parking.

3. Develop a new public safety building downtown to replace Fire Hall No. 1 and host bylaw services, community policing and Penticton’s emergency operations centre.

4. Keep city hall as a civic hub, but modernize and upgrade it as required.

Other recommendations include the city taking over operations of the Adidas Sportsplex indoor soccer facility, upgrading the Cleland Theatre and turning over operations to a third-party contractor, and leasing out historic Leir House at commercial rates.

No decisions have been made yet and city staff has already planned a massive public consultation program to get feedback from the community.

“These recommendations provide direction for $300 million in facilities that are in critical need of a plan,” said Jim Bauer, the city’s general manager of finance and administration, in a press release.

“If the city implements the recommendations as described, Penticton residents will enjoy new facilities with modern functionality that are cheaper to maintain, have a longer service life, improve accessibility and reduce our environmental footprint at a price tag that is $20 million less than simply repairing what we have today.”

The 70-year-old Memorial Arena was first recommended for demolition in 2017, but that plan fell apart when federal grants failed to emerge to build a new twin-rinks facility.

The president of the Okanagan Hockey Group believes moving ahead with the plan now would put Penticton in a league of its own.

“Having four NHL-sized ice surfaces would place Penticton in an elite international category of municipalities that has the ability to host major global events,” said Andy Oakes in the city’s press release.

“There would also be many multi-use opportunities for other groups to take advantage of these state-of-the-art facilities during the spring and summer months.”