(Photo: Facebook/Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association)

Rally planned to protest ‘postponement’ of Cloverdale ice complex

A Cloverdale arena is one of many projects set to be delayed in the City of Surrey’s draft budget

A rally is planned tonight (Dec. 10) to “show support for the Cloverdale Sport & Ice Complex” after it was revealed last week that the project may be delayed by the new Surrey city council.

“Come on out with your jerseys and signs and we will rally to show the city how important this project is to our association!” states a Facebook event, created by Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association.

The rally is set for 6:30 p.m. at Cloverdale Arena, located at 6090 176th St.

In the City of Surrey’s draft budget, released last Monday (Dec. 3), the Cloverdale ice complex is one of several civic projects set to be delayed.

Surrey’s new city council has yet to vote on the draft financial plan, which in all could mean the “postponement” of roughly $136 million in projects.

See also: Surrey mayor defends move to delay Cloverdale rink, other projects

The city’s Finance Committee is set to review the plan at Surrey City Hall on Tuesday (Dec. 11), and there will be opportunity for public to comment.

Last week, the president of Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association told the Now-Leader it’s “devastating” that the community’s planned ice complex is among projects that may be “postponed.”

Marty Jones said he understands there are fiscal responsibilities, but stressed “these are not unnecessary things.”

“I’d get it if they didn’t want to build something we have an overabundance of. But we’re such a massively expanding community, especially in Cloverdale,” Jones added, noting infrastructure has not kept up with the growth.

Two new sheets were planned for the property, on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds just south of 64th Avenue and east of 177B Street. Some work had already begun preparing the site, and renderings had been released. It was expected to be complete in the summer of 2020.

See also: Here’s a first look at Surrey’s two new arenas

VIDEO: Trees cleared from site of future ice arena in Cloverdale

Jones said there is such a shortage of ice time that some children are getting up as early as 4 a.m. on weekdays, or staying out on the ice as late as 11:30 p.m., just to get in their practice time.

“People say, ‘There’s lots of rinks, all these private rinks,’ but what they don’t realize is the City of Surrey ice is what really helps to keep it affordable for our kids to even play,” Jones told the Now-Leader. “In some cases, it’s a third if not a quarter of the cost.”

Such cost increases could push some families out, he lamented.

“It’s more than just hockey – it’s sledge hockey, even City of Surrey programs themselves, the learn to skates, female figure skating, ringette, it’s dozens of user groups.”

Jones said he’s been president for about three years, and the ice complex is something there has been excitement about since that time.

“Now, it could be years. It’s quite sad,” he said. “I’m concerned, too, with the language – postpone. That could mean anything.”

Mayor Doug McCallum spoke to reporters last week about the proposed delay of the Cloverdale facility, and he pointed to land stability problems which would make the project “very expensive” to build.

See also: Unstable soil means more studies, drawings needed for Cloverdale Arena

See more: Cloverdale ice complex construction delayed

The mayor pointed to new sheets of ice expected to be complete in Bridgeview next year, and listed all the ice sheets around the city. McCallum told reporters that some hockey players who play at the Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex will move to the new Bridgeview arena when it opens in 2019, and he said that will free up ice time in Fleetwood for players in Cloverdale.

And, according to McCallum, hockey enrolment is dropping.

“We have, in the last eight or nine years, had a declining usage of ice for hockey over the last eight years. Each year, it’s declining in participation and usage and we do have a chart to show that to you. So we felt at this time the Cloverdale one was the one we needed to postpone for a while.”

To McCallum’s comments, Jones said the Cloverdale hockey association currently has about 900 children enrolled. Jones said he’d have to look at registrations to see if there had been any decline, but said if a drop in numbers existed, it could likely be attributed “to the lack of ice time.”

“We do have wait lists, and that’s primarily because of ice,” Jones added, noting some kids and their parents choose to leave because of the early and late ice times.

“Some of these kids are on the ice until 11:45 (p.m.) and have school the next day,” he said.

The Cloverdale ice complex is just one of several capital projects that will be delayed if the draft budget is adopted.

“Over the last several years, under the direction of previous Mayor and Councils, the City undertook an aggressive Capital Program, which required the acquisition of debt,” wrote City Manager Vincent Lalonde and General Manager of Finance Kam Grewal in the draft financial report released last week.

“External and Internal Debt resulting from previously approved General Capital Programs is $316 million. Furthermore, an additional $198 million would have been required to bring the adopted 2018-2022 General Capital Program to completion,for a total debt requirement of $514 million.”

This news came after McCallum stated in an earlier release that he was “deeply dismayed and shaken to the core” that the city was “currently” carrying a debt load of $514 million, despite part of that debt not yet having been taken on.

See also: City of Surrey’s debt nowhere near McCallum’s figure of $514M

Now, the proposed 2019-2023 General Capital Program, the report states, incorporates a “pay as you go” approach.

“Accordingly, the proposed 2019-2023 General Capital Program reflects significant reductions to previously approved debt requirements,” Lalonde and Grewal’s report states.

The capital projects which have been proposed for postponement means a “reduction of required debt by $136 million,” it adds. By postponing these projects, according to the city report, total debt requirements have been reduced to $378 million.

In addition to the suggested delay of the Cloverdale project, it’s proposed the city also delay the Grandview Heights Community Centre & Library, land acquisition for a performing arts space, expansion of the Fleetwood Community Centre &Library as well as something described as “Modular Child Care.”

It’s also suggested council postpone the relocation of the RCMP’s district office and “enhancement” of cell block and RCMP exhibit space.

Plans to create a “Glades Park” is also set to be delayed, as is an Indigenous gathering space and expansion to Newton Library.

Phase two of “10660 City Parkway” and a “Cultural Corridor” is also on the postponement list.

Three projects are proceeding, but with general operating funding, and they include Nicomekl Riverfront Park, Strawberry Hill Hall, Nicholson Park and bleachers for Tamanawis Park.

The draft financial plan also touches on projects that are underway, and expected to be completed next year, including a North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex, Surrey Museum expansion and improvements to Hawthorne Park.

Asked by reporters last week if delaying these projects leave the community underserved, McCallum said, “I think our community is well served. We’re building community centres as I speak today in fast-growing areas of Surrey.”

Will he reconsider the projects at a later time?

“It’s up to council in the public process. What we wanted to do is be very transparent about what we’re going to do for the next five years. That needs to be put out in the public so they understand we need to reduce debt,” McCallum said.

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