More than $10 million on the wish list to keep two aging Oshawa arenas operating

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Published June 7, 2024 at 11:38 am

Harman Park Arena
Harman Park Arena

It’s going to take more than $10 million to keep a pair of ageing Oshawa arenas up to modern standards, with a “steady decline” in ice use, changing demographics and the uncompromising passage of Father Time all conspiring to take their toll.

Children’s Arena – two years from its 70th birthday – has $8 million in work identified in its nine-year forecast, with a $225,000 in this year’s budget to address “immediate health and safety concerns” for structural movement and cracking, moisture penetration and “potential” mold presence.

Harman Park Arena, which nearly shut down a decade or so ago (and not for the first time), needs more than $2.1 million in upgrades over the next three years.

Children’s Arena underwent a complete renovation (and a 10,000 sq. ft addition) in 1992 but the drop in ice usage over the next couple of decades prompted the City to convert the facility to a permanent dry pad arena in 2016.

Prime time use increased from 2016 to 2019 – peaking at 79 per cent utilization in 2019 – before the pandemic hit. The arena, which hosts ball hockey, lacrosse, roller derby, pickleball and events such as the Durham Craft Beer Festival, is still trying to get back to pre-pandemic numbers.

Budget needs identified, with the work to be done over the next two years, include:

  • $2.3 million for a roof replacement
  • $2 million for exterior work
  • $1.75 million for HVAC, mechanical and plumbing work
  • $1 million for parking lot re-construction
  • $750,000 for interior and equipment upgrades
  • $250,000 for an accessible washroom

Children’s Arena has operated at a loss for most of its existence and operating costs have far outdistanced any incremental revenue increases in recent years. Revenue has gone up a bit from 2016 ($110,000) to 2023 ($115,000) but operating costs have ballooned from $195,000 to $257,000 in that period.

Harman Park nearly closed a dozen years ago but a passionate group of parents packed the council chambers in 2012 to save the rink, with the vote passing by the narrowest of margins at 6-5.

Built between 1969 and 1970, Harman Park’s two ice pads underwent a $3 million renovation in 2013 and a $3.8 million project (roof replacement and structural repairs) is currently underway, with $152,476 already spent.

Prime time usage has declined from 97 per cent utilization in 2016 to 81 percent this past season, though use is expected to climb back to 90 percent for the 2024-25 season. The rinks are converted to dry pad use in the summer and are the home of the Oshawa-Whitby Ball Hockey League.

A recreation needs assessment report has recommended the City keep the ice pads in place for at least another five years but identified $2.125 million in repairs and upgrades needed.

“Given the age of the facility and the ageing infrastructure within Harman Park Arena, the asset has reached a point where a considerable capital investment is recommended,” the report declared.

Projects on the wish list include:

  • $1 million for parking lot reconstruction
  • $600,000 for replacement of de-humidification units
  • $250,000 for interior finishes and fixtures upgrades
  • $125,000 for south pad underfloor heating header replacement
  • $100,000 for structural foundation work
  • $50,000 for hot water storage tank replacement

The work, if approved by Council, is expected to be completed over the next three years.

The potential upgrades to Children’s and Harman Park arenas will be up for discussion at Monday’s Community and Operation Services Committee meeting.

Previous renovation work at Harman Park Arena

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