By Gillian Slade on May 19, 2017.
The decision-making process on what to do with the Medicine Hat Arena has at least one city councillor concerned about the optics of it all.
Coun. Robert Dumanowski called it the “greatest fear realized” after having achieved the Canalta Centre and now not demolishing the arena.
The city proposed engaging real estate company Colliers to assist in determining the best course of action for the property, the development and infrastructure committee was told on Wednesday. A report at the end of summer will help inform council on the best course of action to take.
The land on which the Arena sits includes space taken up by berms to protect against flooding. Some of the parking area is used by patrons of the YMCA, the curling club and Athletic Park. The police station backs on to it as well, land and business support manager Grant MacKay told the committee.
For any development to take place at the site there would need to be a road created for access. There also needs to be an assessment of whether there are any contaminants in the Arena building such as asbestos.
Coun. Les Pearson said council is often criticized for approving studies, and questioned the need for engaging Colliers.
MacKay pointed out that Colliers has a much wider reach in terms of identifying other markets, and will help to advise on the appropriate options.
The idea of not being too rigid about the future use of the Arena and land was a plus for Coun. Julie Friesen.
“Cautious support” was offered by Dumanowski while expressing concerns that it could become a “storage junk yard.”
The old grain mill at the Allowance overpass was sold to the city for a residential development years ago and now stands empty.
“I fear the very same for this property,” said Dumanowski.
The city owns the Arena and council can instruct on whether to demolish or develop, said city CAO Merete Heggelund.
Friesen noted council is in control to ensure worst fears are not realized.
Pearson expressed concerned that an organization might propose operating the Arena, perhaps as a hockey rink, but not have adequate resources to make a go of it.
Colliers has recommended there be a process of understanding potential interest initially. This would inform council on the available options, which may include selling the building and the site as it currently is, the city retaining ownership for a third party to operate, or offering the land for sale.
The proposed timeline is for the full assessment of options to be explored through June. Based on the assessments to determine the level of third-party interest in July and August. A report would then go council in September.
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