Harbour Grace arena planning ongoing

Coombs wants board of directors to run new facility

Nicholas Mercer nmercer@cbncompass.ca
Published on January 14, 2013
Don Coombs is mayor of the Town of Harbour Grace
Photo by Terry Roberts/The Compass

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the Jan. 8 print edition of The Compass.


Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs knows who he would want to run the proposed new stadium in the Conception Bay North town.

Or rather, what he would like to see run the new facility.

"I'd like to see a board of directors put in," said Coombs.

In fact, Coombs would like to see it operated in similar fashion to the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts.

He called it the "Bay Arena model."

"We'd ask people from minor hockey, some people from figure skating would sit on the board and some marketing people. People would make up the board, and be accountable and report what's happening. That's the priority in my mind.

"Minor hockey people know what they want, figure skating people know what they want, recreational hockey, senior hockey, marketing people and people who just have a general interest it."

The mayor said not everyone involved with the proposed volunteer board would have to from Harbour Grace.

"There are people around that want to have a piece in this and want to see it shaped," said Coombs. "I have a couple of people in mind and they're not from Harbour Grace."

Good meeting

Early last month, town officials had their first official meeting with the PHB Group, the consulting firm handling the design of the planned $21.4 million facility. The meeting also included two representatives from Municipal Affairs.

The meeting lasted some two hours and was described as "tremendous" by Coombs.

Once the meeting had concluded, the group toured the current facility, the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium. At the meeting, the town presented a list of needs and wants to the consultants.

Coombs said some of the wants include a second ice surface, a walking track, canteen, multi-purpose room and seating for between 800 to 1,000 people.

Coombs believes there would be enough business for two ice surfaces, with the option for curling lines placed on the ice.

"Minor hockey has said a second ice surface would allow them to host more tournaments with more teams," he said. "That would be an economic boost for the area."

Coombs recognizes that not all of these wants will be included in the final designs, as it will be important for the project to remain on budget.

The next step for the project will be for the the consultants to finalize the plans, have Harbour Grace review the plans and then go to tender on the construction of the project.

Late last week, Coombs said he has heard nothing but positive things from taxpayers in Harbour Grace about the new stadium.

"I haven't had one person come up to me, since this has been on the go, and say we don't want it or we don't need it. People say we want and we're prepared," he said.

In its 2013 municipal operating budget, the town approved the lowering of the town's mill rate to 9 from 10.5. While this was done to offset the increase in residential property assessments in the town, there is some thought that a portion of the taxes will be put towards the stadium.

It is something, Coombs indicated, that constituents do not mind.

"Taxpayers have told me they want it, it is affordable and they don't mind putting some taxes into it," he said.

Paying for the building

These developments are the latest in what can only be described as a tumultuous journey for the proposed stadium. From questions about it being affordable for Harbour Grace to a proposed partnership with neighbouring Carbonear having seemingly fallen apart, the proposed rink has seen its fair share of criticisms.

Many pundits have questioned how Harbour Grace can afford its share of the project, which comes to $3.8 million under the government's 80/20 model.

"Nobody wants a thing that is going to cost the taxpayers a fortune forever," he said. "We came up with a way, after a year of discussing it, that makes it affordable to the town. We feel that properly run, properly managed as a 12-month facility that it will succeed."

Coombs said the plan to pay the town's portion of the money has many facets to it.

First, the town would seek a sponsor for the naming of the arena.

"If you check the history, most of the buildings in the province are named and we've been approached by a national company about naming the building," said Coombs.

The town plans on rolling out a marketing plan that would help pay for its portion of the construction.

"That's a revenue base of $300,000 to $400,000 immediately," said Coombs.

There are plans to take out a mortgage on the facility and have the revenues from the stadium make the payments on the mortgage. Coombs said the process has started on securing it with a banking institution.

Other assests at the town's disposal are the old S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium and other assets inside the building.

Options include the selling of the building, as well as utilizing some of the newer pieces in the proposed stadium.

Other communities

As reported by The Compass in late November, the insistence by Harbour Grace to have the facility on Jamie's Way has seemingly scuttled a partnership between the town and neighbouring Carbonear.

Town leaders in Carbonear seemed willing to pay half the construction and operating costs, but only if all decisions, including a location, were made jointly.

Coombs said Harbour Grace still welcomes the involvement of Carbonear, and any other municipality for that matter.

"We would welcome any partners," he said.

It is still unknown when construction on the project will start, but Coombs would like to see it "as soon as possible."