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Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows sports groups outgrow local arenas

Minor hockey and lacrosse associations forced to go to other cities for space

Local rinks are bursting at the seams, with Ridge Meadows youth sports associations now forced to look elsewhere to give kids playing time.

Tyson Craiggs, president of the Ridge Meadows Minor Lacrosse Association, said this isn’t a new situation for the RMMLA, which has been conducting practices and games in other cities for a few years now.

“For all of our activities from February until April when the ice comes off, we have to go outside the city for all of our tryouts,” said Craiggs. “It puts quite a burden on our families driving to Delta, Langley, and Abbotsford.

Due to the rapidly growing number of kids in both the RMMLA and Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association (RMMHA), as well as other local sports groups, the task of finding adequate floor time for everyone has been a monumental challenge, explained RMMHA general manager Jordan Emmerson.

“In the last three years we’ve gone from below 1,000 kids to next year we’ll be over 1,200,” said Emmerson.

“All of the other groups who use the ice are growing at the same rate. We get approximately 145 sheets of ice per week and I don’t know where any more is coming from for next year.”

He explained that the local girls and boys teams across many sports are having to work closely together just to get by with the very limited amount of ice and floor space available.

Currently, the cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are serviced by two arenas with a total of five sheets of ice for hockey, only three of which are converted to dry floors for the lacrosse association during part of the year.

And with the majority of the ice sheets being located in Pitt Meadows, it inconveniences most of the local sports teams.

“Around 75 per cent of our registrants are from Maple Ridge and 75 per cent of our games are played in Pitt Meadows,” said Craiggs.

“The lack of facilities are a bit of a deterrent, especially for the younger ages. You have to put them out in the elements and they’re six and seven years old and they just get turned off the sport at a young age, unfortunately.”

In comparison to the similarly sized community of Delta, Ridge Meadows is falling behind, with Delta containing nine ice sheets for hockey, with the vast majority of these transforming into dry floors for lacrosse in the hockey off-season.

Both Emmerson and Craiggs said that this is particularly alarming given that Ridge Meadows is home to the largest minor lacrosse association in Western Canada and the largest minor hockey association in the Lower Mainland.

“We need to have facilities that recognize the growth of this city,” said Emmerson.

READ ALSO: Pitt Meadows will not receive new pool or redeveloped Harris Road Park

As a result of this lack of facilities, both the RMMLA and RMMHA are forced to potentially turn away kids who are interested in playing local hockey or lacrosse simply because there’s not enough space to give them all adequate practices and games.

“It’s a good problem to have so many kids active in sports and keeping out of trouble, but we don’t want to turn kids away,” said Emmerson.

“We have a kid who’s going to be a potential first-round draft pick in the NHL this year, Colton Roberts, who played for the Giants and played seven or eight years here with us. But maybe the next Colton Roberts doesn’t get in this year because of registration constraints. We’re working with the city for ice allocation for next season and we’re hoping we can get it early enough.”

Craiggs agreed, explaining that there’s the same risk of hurting potential lacrosse stars as well if registration caps become a regular thing.

“Six of the top 10 Junior A draft pics came from Ridge Meadows Minor this year,” said Craiggs. “And a lot of our athletes are receiving full university scholarships to play high-level lacrosse in the USA.”

READ MORE: Ridge Meadows Burrards picked early and often in BCJALL draft

But the effects of the underwhelming facility space have also started to affect groups outside of the RMMLA and RMMHA, with the BC Summer Games announcing that they would be moving part of the lacrosse portion of the Games to Mission.

BC Summer Games marketing and communications manager David Conlin explained that the box lacrosse competitions will take place at two different venues, with the primary venue being Cam Neely Arena at Planet Ice and the secondary venue switching from the Golden Ears Winter Club to the Mission Leasure Centre.

“Golden Ears Winter Club has a temporary board/netting system in place when the curling ice is out for the summer whereas Mission Leisure Centre is a purpose-built arena with a fixed board system, which is preferable for this demographic of box lacrosse athletes,” said Conlin.

Craiggs and the rest of the RMMLA are looking forward to the completion of the new covered multi-sport box at Pitt Meadows Athletic Park, which he said will give the association a place to hold some of their tryouts.

According to City of Pitt Meadows director of parks, recreation and culture Diane Chamberlain, the project is still in its early stages with the city hoping to go to RFP for design in early spring.

“We hope to begin construction early in 2025, with a completion and opening date mid 2026,” said Chamberlain.

However, she explained that the city is not currently exploring any options for adding any new indoor recreation arena space, saying that the multi-sport covered box at the athletic park will accommodate lacrosse players and other local sports teams and allow the ice to remain in place for longer at the Pitt Meadows Arena Complex.

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Leaders at both the RMMLA and RMMHA remain hopeful that the local cities are heading in the right direction, with the City of Maple Ridge recently announcing that they would start gathering public feedback on a proposed plan to build a new multi-use recreational facility at Hammond Community Park.

Maple Ridge Mayor Dan Ruimy said that the feasibility study for the new facility is expected to be completed by this fall, at which point city staff will present next steps to council.

“A project of this magnitude normally takes three to five years to complete in cases where there are minimal slowdowns through the planning, design, and construction process,” said Ruimy.

This momentum on a new arena is a longtime coming, according to Craiggs, who said that the local youth sports associations have been down this road before.

“Our discussion started with the city back in 2012 regarding facilities, and in 2017 they published a community plan, which none of it came to fruition,” said Craiggs. “The new leadership under Dan Ruimy is engaging with the community and trying to move forward with a plan.”

He specifically credited the director of parks and facilities, Valoree Richmond, calling her instrumental in moving the plans for a new arena forward.

Currently, the City of Maple Ridge is undergoing a feasibility study for the proposed Hammond Community Park facility, which would potentially include a new sheet of ice.

As part of this, they’ve hosted multiple open house events throughout the community, with upcoming events on Sunday, Feb. 11, at the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre and Thursday, Feb. 15, at Planet Ice. There is also an online survey which can be filled out until Feb. 23, which can be found at

“We did the same study years ago, but this time it feels different,” said Craiggs. “It feels like there’s something getting done now.”

READ MORE: Maple Ridge residents having their say about new rec facilities

Emmerson would like to see the city advance on not only the proposed facility at Hammond Community Park, but also other potential recreational facilities as well.

“Don’t hold back on one rink. We need more,” said Emmerson. “One rink is a bandaid on a bullet hole right now.”

He also emphasized that residents should get out to one of the open house events and speak up regarding the lack of facilities for local sports teams.

“Our members need to make their voices heard or else council isn’t going to approve anything,” said Emmerson.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge asking for input into new Hammond rec facilities

The City of Maple Ridge is also in the midst of trying to build another ice sheet at Planet Ice, which Mayor Ruimy explained has been in the works for more than a year now.

“If the ALC approves the city’s application, the next steps would include detailed design, stakeholder consultation, and construction,” said Ruimy.

He explained that supporting local sports is a key priority for council and that the city is deeply rooted in sports and recreational programs.

“We have over 80 organized sports groups in the community which provide a vital opportunity for families, children, and youth to connect and build a stronger, healthier community,” said Ruimy.

“Any weekend you can see thousands of children and youth of all ages on the sports fields and in the gyms and arenas in our community supported by sports clubs, volunteers, coaches, and proud parents and grandparents.”

Unfortunately, the proposed recreational facility projects will not be completed anytime soon, said Emmerson. So most kids currently in the RMMHA and RMMLA will likely not experience the benefits of any new facilities.

Instead, he said the actions taken in the coming weeks and months will be to help the young children of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows who aren’t even 10 years old yet.

“We want to see shovels in the ground. We’ve been waiting so long,” said Emmerson.

“It’s time to make a decision in Maple Ridge about what we’re going to do,” said Craiggs.

Without any progress, Craiggs and Emmerson are worried that they’ll have to start regularly turning away kids and dampening the pride that the community has for its youth sports.

Brandon Tucker

About the Author: Brandon Tucker

I have been a journalist since 2013, with much of my career spent covering sports and entertainment stories in Alberta.
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