Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey likes four-rink plan

For hockey players who get up for early morning practices when it is still dark out, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Taegan deGroot of the Ridge Meadows atom C1 team takes aim at the net during a game against the Ridge Meadows atom C3 team at Planet Ice on Sunday. With 1

Taegan deGroot of the Ridge Meadows atom C1 team takes aim at the net during a game against the Ridge Meadows atom C3 team at Planet Ice on Sunday. With 1

For hockey players who get up for early morning practices when it is still dark out, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey is embracing the City of Maple Ridge’s proposal to renovate Planet Ice in Albion, doubling the ice surfaces from two to four.

“It’s definitely needed – there is no question about it,” said Scott Falconer, minor hockey president. “If we’re getting two more sheets, it will make a difference.”

Senior recreation manager Don Cramb said the plans are still at a concept level. The city has met with all ice users, and is now gathering feedback on its plans.

Cramb said the projects are generally two years or longer from completion. The arenas are years away, because the plan calls for the relocation of the Golden Ears Curling Club. The facilities the club uses now were originally designed as an NHL-size sheet of ice. The curling club would be retrofitted to a hockey rink, and a fourth sheet of arena ice added. But first a new curling club must be built in another building – the proposed $65 million multi-use wellness facility, to include pools and gymnasiums.

When the curling club has a new home, arena construction could begin.

Cramb said the arena facility expansion would cost an estimated $32-$36 million.

The work would also add a new lobby and reception area, and public space. Existing change rooms would be upgraded and new ones added. On the second level of the expansion, there would be fitness space, office rooms and a viewing area over the new sheets of ice.

Outside, visitors would be greeted by a “warm, attractive, welcoming entrance,” said architect Paul Fast.

Cramb said the plans have been well received by ice users.

“Certainly, the sports community appreciates what we’re doing,” he said. “There’s costs to all these projects.

Minor hockey is the biggest arena user, with approximately 1,100 members, and to ensure that the kids are getting enough ice time, they have two practices before school starts.

That means some kids get on the ice as early as 5:15 a.m. on a school day.

Ice time is already scarce, and the city is predicted to grow, potentially bringing more kids to hockey.

Falconer said managing future growth is an issue, and the association does not advertise or promote itself to new players.

The association is also trying to offer more development opportunities so that players can improve their skills.

“There is a lot we could offer, but we have to look after our teams’ games and practices first.”

And, he said, minor hockey can be a tourism driver, bringing people to Maple Ridge for tournaments and championship events.

The association is hosting a spring tournament, and last year hosted the juvenile provincials

“We have a lot of energy on the board to host tournaments and championships.”

The new rinks would help, he said.

Falconer said the rest of Planet Ice would benefit from renovations.

“The building is a good facility, it just needs a bit of attention.”

Other ice users include men’s recreational hockey, figure skaters and speed skaters.

Falconer hopes taxpayers will see the benefit of having good sports facilities.

“We’re a big enough community, with proud sports organizations.”

The city has sent random survey letters to 3,000 homes as part of an ongoing community facilities consultation, after which residents will be asked to vote on borrowing money to built such facilities through an alternative approval process.