The Committee of the Whole meeting on August 7 devoted a great deal of time to the issue of the proposed ice rink for the Southgate Community Church. It is a subject that has gained a lot of attention on social media sites, and a number of candidates in the upcoming municipal election turned out to have their say on the matter at the Committee meeting.
Back in 2015, the Ottawa Senators Foundation was looking to provide an ice rink to North Grenville. The Foundation would build the actual rink itself on an asphalt pad, build permanent boards, build fencing around the rink and have painted hockey lines and other markings for summer activities. The Foundation also provides basketball nets and basketballs, along with ball hockey equipment. Riverside Park was one of the venues being considered, but municipal staff threw their recommendation behind an application by Southgate Community Church to have the rink built there.
At the Council meeting on August 7, it was announced that upheaval at the top of the Sens Foundation had meant that nothing happened for some time and the project did not go ahead. In fact, the Sens Foundation has continued to open rinks across the area, the latest one opening in Gatineau last month.
But the church has also applied for the Canada 150 rink that had been located on Parliament Hill during Canada’s festivities last year, and had started to raise funds in the community to finance the rink. The Council was discussing whether to agree to a request from the church to administer the money raised by the Southgate campaign. The idea is that the municipality “accept all donations and make the appropriate payments and charitable receipts to all donors of the project”. Southgate’s ambition, according to the leadership there, is to become North Grenville’s community centre, and the rink is only one part of that plan.
In a partnership deal with the Sens Foundation and the Municipality of North Grenville, Southgate church has applied to be granted the Canada 150 rink and has received the support of a number of local businesses in that application. When asked by John Barclay if the municipality has any financial liability or involvement in the plan, Director of Parks, Recreation & Culture, Mark Guy, stated clearly that there was no financial liability, but that the municipality was both “a partner and supporter” of the project.
When asked by Nancy Peckford why the rink was not being planned for a more accessible part of the municipality, such as Riverside Park, she was told by Mayor David Gordon that this would require the municipality to hire two or three people to maintain the facility, whereas Southgate will do it on a voluntary basis.
The financial commitment in this project is quite extensive. According to Randy Hopkins, co-chair of the North Grenville Outdoor Rink Committee looking to get the rink to town, actually getting the rink is just the first step. His group plan to add a roof and install an ice plant in the future. The total cost of the entire project will reach around $1 million. Hence, the church’s attempt to raise funds to support the plans.
There has been a financial commitment by a number of partners, according to supporting documents supplied by Southgate, including the Sens Foundation ($50,000); Independent Grocer ($5,000); Jones Rails ($10,000); Dean Howell Electrical ($2,500); and Willis Kerr Contracting ($5,000). In addition, there has been donations in kind from other sources, including a $45,000 tractor with blower from Tubman Funeral Homes, $3,500 worth of work from Kollaard Engineering, and $5,000 worth of design and labour from Lockwood Brothers Construction. The Ottawa International Hockey Festival is listed as donating $150,000 for site preparation and installation. This would probably only come into effect if and when Southgate are granted the Canada 150 Rink. Southgate itself is contributing $10,000 in cash and supplying the land, which they value at $80,000. This may seem like a lot, but the annual income from the congregation at Southgate is around $650,000. Mayor David Gordon, who attends Southgate Church, noted at Council that Southgate is a wealthy church with wealthy parishioners. He also noted that Southgate were determined to have a rink, even if this project falls through. In his typical way with words, he said that the church would have a rink “come Hell or high water”.
The Municipality donated $3,000 from the Community Fund in 2014 to Southgate for improving their current rink. This was out of a total Community Grant budget of $8,000. Residents have been worried about the church having complete control over the new rink, and about a religious organisation being supported by municipal staff and funds. Staff did admit in 2015, when recommending Southgate as a site for the Sens Foundation rink, that “Southgate Church is not in an area that allows for walking to the facility from Kemptville, there are a number of residents along French Settlement Road and Kettle Creek who can access the location without the use of a vehicle”.
Nevertheless, the Southgate application has received the enthusiastic backing of community groups such as the North Grenville Scouts, and Children’s Mental Health of Leeds & Grenville. Should the Canada 150 Rink go elsewhere, Southgate intend to pursue the acquisition of a full-size rink at their property, as the Mayor said: “Come Hell or high water”.