The main rink at the new North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex, due open this summer and ready for use by ice-sports teams in the fall. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

FOCUS: New arena, more ice in Surrey – but will it be enough for everyone?

With both rinks to close at North Surrey rec, the result is a net gain of one ice sheet this fall

In North Surrey, the landscape for hockey players, figure skaters and other ice-sport athletes will be much different this fall when a new $52-million arena is scheduled to open in the neighbourhood.

North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex is a three-rink facility currently being built at 12780 110th Ave., just south of Scott Road SkyTrain station – a seven-minute trip by vehicle from the current two-rink hub at North Surrey Recreation Centre.

The oldest sheet of ice there, in the north end of the building on City Parkway, has been home to North Surrey Skating Club since 1967.

“That’s a long time, 52 years,” confirmed Sherri Birkett, president of an organization that involves close to 150 skaters.

This month city officials are working with executives of such groups to draft a move-in plan for the modern new building located down the King George Boulevard hill. The project is targeted for summer completion, and will be ready in the fall for hockey players, figure skaters and other users.

“We look forward to hearing the plans for the new arena,” Birkett said Monday.

“We’re also waiting to hear more about what will happen to the current one.”

Once the new arena is opened, both rinks at North Surrey rec centre will no longer be used for ice sports, according to Laurie Cavan, general manager of Surrey’s parks, recreation and culture department.

“This summer, we’ll transition the groups into the new North Surrey Sport & Ice complex, and the two rinks (at North Surrey rec) will basically be decommissioned, and the pool and fitness area will remain operational,” Cavan told the Now-Leader.

“They’ve both pretty much reached the end of their functional life, so we’re not going to continue to keep those ice plants operational, in the best interest of everyone,” Cavan added. “We’ve got a new facility to move people into, but the other rinks, one of them is over 50 years old, and we feel the best decision is to decommission those arenas, given the condition of them.”

Cavan said the space currently occupied by the two rinks will eventually be redeveloped as part of the City Centre plan, but no timeline exists for that.

With a net gain of one sheet of ice in the North Surrey area this fall, user groups are concerned about a continued lack of available ice in the city.

“That is something we’ve communicated to the city, and it is a challenge,” Harbs Bains, president of Surrey Minor Hockey Association, told the Now-Leader last week. “We have ice times that are inconvenient to families, which has a toll in terms of losing some members from time to time, and we’re hoping to have some flexibility with the ice times. Having that extra rink will definitely assist but I don’t think it will be enough, no.”

In Cloverdale, the issue of available ice was a hot one in December when city council scrapped plans to build a two-sheet arena in that community, on 64th Avenue at 177B Street.

At the new arena in North Surrey, user groups from all areas of Surrey will be looking to book ice and floor times there, or scoop up times elsewhere.

Noted Bains: “Right now we use North Surrey Arena primarily, but also Newton and Surrey Sport & Leisure (in Fleetwood), and that’s a shared situation with other associations and users. To get additional ice times is challenging, because of all the user groups, and the city wants to be fair to everyone,” he added.

Cavan said the city employs an ice-allocation process each and every year, and having the one additional sheet of ice in the inventory will help ease demand in Surrey.

“We look at the ice allocation city-wide,” Cavan said, “so this will give some opportunity for change, to enable some groups to have ice time a little closer to their homes, and that’s a process we will go through.

She added: “We’re really excited about the upcoming fall season and what that additional ice will mean, and it will create more opportunities for organized sports and others who want to use it, like learn-to-skate programs, which are always popular, so it’s exciting times with the new rink and additional ice for the community.”

As it stands, North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex will soon be filled with the sound of hockey sticks, skates and pucks, not the noise of drills, saws and hammers currently heard in the building.

“I haven’t had a chance to tour it yet, but it looks amazing,” Bains said.

The Surrey-based Lark Group company is constructing the new arena in a design-build project done in partnership with Francl Architecture.

Last week, the Now-Leader was given a tour of the building by Lark Group operations manager Trevor Massey and superintendent Trevor Dickson.

PHOTOS: Inside North Surrey’s new three-rink arena – and the view from the roof, too.

The 130,000-square-foot complex includes a fitness gym and studios, meeting rooms, “flex” space, a cafeteria and outdoor activity areas.

A large wood roof covers the three arenas, and natural light streams in from the north, through windows installed near the ceiling.

“The rinks are offset slightly, so they fit better on the property. They’re staggered a bit,” Dickson explained.

The middle rink is the “showcase” one, with more seating than the other two.

“The rinks can be geared for basketball, volleyball and pickleball,” Dickson said. “Outside of hockey season, those could be converted for other uses. They have inserts for that in the slab, and in the centre rink they could have trade shows, and that’s the Junior B rink, the middle one,” to be used by Surrey Knights of the PJHL.

• RELATED: ‘New jerseys, new building, new start’ for Surrey Knights as two-win season ends.

Some of the seating will be removable, Massey said.

“So you could put some of those seats away to not have it look so empty if not many people are in the building, or if the space is used for something else, like a trade show.

“It’s flexible.”

Massey said people are excited to see the new facility open soon.

“I’m a hockey dad and I know there’s a need for this building,” he said. “I think it’ll be a much better experience here than what’s there (at North Surrey Recreation Centre right now), with the parking and the lobby, all the people there. It’s a rough area there, and I think there’ll be more of a safety feeling coming down here.

“People will be able to find parking here, and it’s right off the highway, and the bridge,” Massey added.

“It’s a good location for a rink, pretty central. From Cloverdale, I just took the Perimeter Road and it was a 20-minute drive.”

Bains said members of Surrey Minor are eager to use the new complex as a hub for hockey.

“We are looking forward to the new one opening, and the anticipating of moving into a new facility, like anything else, is greeted with enthusiastiam and passion, just talking to the parents and the kids,” he said.

“We have the three rinks we’re at, but we should be able to use the new arena as more of a hub for all of our activities. I think the city is trying to have all of our sessions in one rink, the new one.”

The association, he said, is prepared to make that transition.

“I’m told to be ready in September and October,” Bains said. “We’ve waited this long, we can definitely wait a little longer. It’s a wonderful thing for our community.”

Meanwhile, the new building represents the second multi-sheet arena built by Lark Group in Surrey. The company constructed the Excellent Ice facility of mini rinks in 1999, and has operated it ever since. In February, city council moved forward the company’s proposal to expand the arena, on 54A Avenue in the East Panorama area, to include classrooms for a planned hockey academy there.

• RELATED: Private school for hockey players pitched for Surrey’s Excellent Ice arena.

The private school, known conceptually as Excellent Ice Academy, would be for students in Kindergarten through Grade 12, noted a report before city council.

Lark Group senior vice-president Kirk Fisher said the company hopes to open the expanded facility in September 2020.

“We’ve had our ice arena there for 20 years and we’ve always had hockey schools and now we want to add a real academy with classrooms and a full school,” Fisher said in February. “We’ve been in Surrey for 47 years and we try to promote and grow Surrey, and we believe Surrey needed another opportunity for kids to take private school and for kids to focus on not just education but also sports, and it would also have a dance program as well.”

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An exterior view of North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

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