Richmond explains decision to open arena in November

LOUISDALE: The municipality is responding to criticism from parents and the minor hockey association for its decision to open the Richmond Arena in November.

Last week Strait Richmond Minor Hockey Association (SRMHA) president Angie Matheson posted on Facebook that the Municipality of the County of Richmond decided not to open the Richmond Arena “until at least the beginning of November.”

“This decision was made with minimal consultation or communication with minor hockey,” Matheson posted. “This means that depending on when the next two periods of our rebound plan are approved by public health and Hockey Nova Scotia [Period 2 practices and tryouts, Period 3 full return], we will be down an ice surface for scheduling. The result will be reduced ice times and delays in programs starts. All ice will obviously be in Port Hawkesbury until the Richmond Arena is opened – and then we are not sure what restrictions will be put in place by the county.”

Matheson noted that the SRMHA was able to successfully return to the ice with the cooperation of the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre and the Town of Port Hawkesbury.

“We worked together with Hockey Nova Scotia to allow kids to safely return to the ice,” the SRMHA president posted. “We know there have been concerns about some of the restrictions, but some hockey is better than no hockey. SRMHA is ready to work with the municipality on a safe, timely reopening of the Richmond Arena.”

The social media post attracted many comments from people unhappy with the decision to delay the arena’s re-opening.

Richmond Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Don Marchand told The Reporter the decision to postpone the arena’s opening was reached after he and other municipal staff “evaluated the health and safety concerns for our arena staff and those entering the facility.”

“We also evaluated the financial impact to the municipality,” Marchand explained. “Since there would be no incidental ice rentals permitted, all municipal programming was cancelled until further notice and we were also informed that there would be no figure skating bookings. Our only customer in October would be SRMHA.”

The CAO said the decision to delay the opening was forwarded to Richmond Municipal Council on August 26, and since he “did not receive different direction from councillors,” on September 3 the minor hockey association was informed.

Marchand said the matter was again discussed at the September 14 Committee-of-the-Whole meeting where council did not demand any changes to the planned opening date of November 1. He said staff were directed to re-evaluate the opening date when and if changes are made to provincial public health guidelines.

“While we recognize the inconvenience the delay will have on organized hockey we feel that it is appropriate and in the interests of the health and safety of our employees and users of the facility,” Marchand added. “We understand this has caused strain within the SRMHA and those involved but believe it is the responsible decision in light of our current situation.”