‘Thaw’ On Funds Needed To Solidify Ice Oval’s Future
Refrigeration next step for outdoor ice oval photo OIO Facebook page
Prince George, BC – It has been years since the Outdoor Ice Oval Society first broached the subject of a refrigerated ice surface with City Council…
A funding request at that time was denied. Armed with a much-higher capital cost estimate, OIO Society President Kathy Lewis will appear at tonight’s meeting to request Council consider placing the unfunded project in the 2018 capital plan – subject to fundraising and potential contributions from other sources.
The man who was instrumental in starting the outdoor oval has called on supporters to pack the gallery of Council Chambers tonight. Dick Vonuegen is urging city residents to come early to the 6pm meeting and purchase ‘Chill the Oval’ buttons for $5, as part of the effort to come up with the estimated $3.7-million dollars to upgrade the oval to a refrigerated system.
Part of the upgrade would include a permanent concrete surface that would transform the oval into a 12-month recreational facility, used by in-line skaters, roller-skiers, and bikers. The reliability of the refrigerated surface in the winter months would also put the Prince George Blizzard Speed Skating Club in the running to host provincial and national meets. Just last season, the Club lost the chance to host the BC Long Track Championships after the BC Speed Skating Association reversed an earlier decision and moved the event to Fort St. John over concerns about the natural ice.
In the OIO’s annual operating report presented to Council last week, Kathy Lewis noted 2015-16 was the oval’s shortest season ever – approximately 10-weeks, with 55 days open for skating. While the on-site counter registered more than 8000 visitors, overall attendance was down due to the shorter number of days open compared to previous years.
Table shows attendance numbers by year courtesy OIO Society
In a briefing note for tonight’s meeting, Lewis credited significant infrastructure improvements – the equipment storage & service building and the Canfor House warming hut & change facility (both legacies of the 2015 Canada Winter Games) – with having “profound positive impacts on the oval and its use.”
“However, use of this facility is seriously and negatively impacted by weather-related in-season closures, and reduction in season length.” Lewis continued, “These closures could be reduced or eliminated, and a longer season could be obtained through refrigeration.” She said refrigeration is the Society’s single most-important priority moving forward.