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No promise on Cam Bay arena opening next winter, MLA says

Cambridge Bay MLA Jeannie Ehaloak can assure her constituents that she's working to get the mould problem fixed at the community arena, but she cannot guarantee that the facility will be in use for the winter of 2018-19.

This is how minor hockey looked on a good day in Cambridge Bay this past winter. Cambridge Bay MLA Jeannie Ehaloak will not guarantee hockey players and recreational skaters will be back on the arena ice in Cambridge Bay next winter, but she says she's working on the issue alongside Community and Government Services Minister Lorne Kusugak.
Navalik Tologanak/NNSL photo

"I'm hopeful with myself and (Community and Government Services) Minister (Lorne) Kusugak working on the situation, we can get it open by this fall," Ehaloak said last week. "But I'm not going to promise. I'm not going to say, 'Yes we are.' It all depends on the type of work that needs to be done and how quickly we can get started on this."

Ehaloak wouldn't elaborate on what steps she and Kusugak are prepared to take.

"Both him and I are working on trying to rectify the issue. That's all I can say for now," she said. "Once I know exactly what's going to happen, or when it's going to happen and how things are going to roll out, then I'll be able to talk a little bit more."

The Hamlet of Cambridge Bay and Community and Government Services (CGS) were unable to get a contractor in place to salvage any of the 2017-18 ice season at the arena. The work still hasn't been done and Cambridge Bay's hamlet council has decided to leave the remediation details in the hands of CGS, senior administrative officer Marla Limousin said in May.

CGS didn't provide any information this week on the status of the arena renovations.

Kelli Gillard, president of minor hockey in Cambridge Bay, said she can sympathize with the difficulties of getting a request for proposals in place. The youngsters in the community wound up playing floor hockey in a gym and scrimmaging on outdoor rinks starting last January. The program did lose some players who opted to enrol in other activities rather than skate outside during frigid days.

"We have some really little kids. Without a place to warm up or change into your skates or do anything like that, it's a big challenge," said Gillard. "I don't blame anyone or anything else. The challenge was that it took so long to make the final realization that the arena was not going to be opening this year and then kind of managing the kids' disappointment as best we could."

She said minor hockey, which generally has close to 50 registrants in Cambridge Bay, is preparing for a possible worst-case scenario this season and will book gym time early as a contingency.

Gillard added that local volunteers and Hockey Nunavut were very accommodating last year during the period when it was uncertain whether the arena might open.

The hamlet has also decided to pursue a capital campaign, likely to kick off in the fall, to start fundraising for a new recreation complex, Limousin added.

Ehaloak said the existing arena, with renovations, likely has eight to nine years of life left in it. She said that it will probably take close to 10 years to build a new rec centre.

"I'm totally in support of what they're trying to do," she said.

Ehaloak, who was Cambridge Bay mayor for six years prior to being elected MLA last October, said she tried to get the arena situation resolved during her term as the hamlet's leader.

"When I became mayor seven years ago this was an issue," she said.