Arenas, other amenities, getting facelifts

By Pam Wright, The Chatham Voice, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A long list of upgrades, including to arenas, for many of Chatham-Kent’s amenities was approved by council recently.

All told, the work carries a $4.5-million price tag.

The largest big-ticket item is improvements to the municipality’s 10 arenas. A total of $1.2-million is slated for a variety of refurbishments, ranging from painting to ice plant upgrades.

Chatham-Kent’s aging ice rinks continue to pose a challenge, as the median age of the rinks is about 50 years. The two newest facilities include the Tilbury Memorial Arena and Chatham’s Thames Campus Arena, which are 30 and 31 years old respectively.

Wallaceburg’s Memorial Arena is the oldest at 74 years, with Chatham Memorial Arena second at 73 years.

The age of the facilities is a cause of concern for some councillors.

South Kent Coun. Anthony Ceccacci questioned the wisdom of continuing to put money into old buildings.

Ceccacci said he has attended a number of local arenas recently, and is wondering if maintaining old buildings is the best path forward.

“You can only fix something so many times before it’s broken for good,” Ceccacci told council, asking if a succession plan is being developed to replace the aging arenas in the future.

“I’m concerned there will be a catastrophic fail and we’re going to be in a very challenging situation,” Ceccacci noted.

He said the municipality may find itself “behind the eight ball” when it comes to patching up older buildings.

Rob Pollock, Chatham-Kent’s director of parks, recreation and cemeteries, said engineering assessments are carried out every five years, and currently all 10 arenas are in good shape.

“We are examining them and all of the options that we have,” Pollock told council, adding future considerations are being considered.

Chris Thibert, acting general manager of infrastructure and engineering, said it’s important to put money away for asset management to fund future builds, so when the time comes, the municipality will be prepared and not “caught off guard.”

Funding for arena upgrades is coming from Chatham-Kent’s lifecycle reserve funds.

Other improvements approved by council included:

• A total of $66,250 will be spent upgrading and maintaining the municipality’s seven outdoor pools, all of which are more than 50 years old. In addition, Chatham-Kent’s indoor pools in Wallaceburg and Blenheim will see $127,000 spent on upkeep.

• Municipal playgrounds will be getting a $694,000 boost, including the replacement of existing equipment in Chatham’s Tecumseh Park and Thames Campus Weedon Fields, as well Blenheim’s Optimist Park and Victoria Park in Bothwell. In 2022, the cost of a typical accessible playground unit is $110,000.

• Chatham-Kent’s public parks will see $702,600 spent on a wide range of projects ranging from painting to anti-vandalism protection.

• The municipality’s public halls will see $71,000 in spending and $22,000 will be spent on splash pads.