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Facility Development - Making Great things Happen

Long Term Arena Strategy


New: Effective April 1, 2013, the Community Access Plan will be in effect at all HRM owned arenas.


On August 14, 2012, Regional Council approved in principle the Long Term Arena Strategy. The Strategy included a review of all municipally owned ice surfaces, with consideration for the full landscape of arenas in HRM. The scope of work for this review was broad and included such things as:

- consideration of non-municipal facilities;

- consideration for recapitalization, replacement and reuse of municipal


- locational options;

- outdoor refrigeration opportunities;

- identification of proposed priorities; and

- high level multi-year capital budget outline for implementation for municipal facilities

Also included in the discussion and recommendations are consideration for operational and governance enhancements related to scheduling, access plan, and pricing structures. In all cases, recommendations were considered by the Steering Committee to add value, where there was evidence of inherent efficiencies to the provision of services to citizens. The concept of “enhanced participation for citizens” was an important guiding principle. An additional consideration for the Steering Committee was that the provision of ice in HRM should be done in a manner that would enhance access to citizens while, when possible, provide a more cost and operationally effective structure for the Municipality.

Long Term Arena Strategy Report To PDF Acrobat Tips

For additional information please call or email the contact at the bottom of this page


Key Findings

1. This study determined that there is no need to add additional inventory – no additional ice surfaces are recommended as part of this review. The following facts indicate decreasing demand and extra capacity in existing arenas:

- Usage in arenas is currently declining. Off-peak usage has reduced over the past five years;

- Adult recreational hockey groups are well served presently, based on demand levels. These groups historically, have used a higher percentage of off peak ice times then they are currently using;
- Regional population in the 0-19 age groups is declining; and

- The HRM “Recreation Blueprint” focuses on children and youth as primary target markets.

2. The implementation of a Centralized Scheduling Process* will provide for strategic usage of facilities that will in turn ensure more effective utilization of municipal assets. This is particularly true in off peak seasons like spring, summer and September, as well as during non-prime regular season times.

* Update: effective November 2012, citizens can view ice time availability online for four HRM-operated arenas including Devonshire, Bowles, Gray and LeBrun. The new online arena availability option is the first of several phases of work underway to centralize scheduling for all HRM owned and operated arenas as part of the implementation of the Council-approved Long Term Arena Strategy. Information regarding implementation of the next phases of the centralized scheduling process will be communicated as available.

3. Implementation of the Community Access Plan will ensure a fair and equitable distribution of ice time throughout sports, genders and age groups. Currently in place at the BMO Centre, the HRM Community Access Plan will come into effect April 1, 2013, at all HRM owned arenas, supporting existing youth and adult programs currently in place, and allowing for additional access for new and underserviced groups.

Visit the Community Access Plan page for more information.

4. Consolidation of aging arenas into multi-pad arenas is supported as a fiscally responsible decision related to both capital construction and operations. As older arena facilities are retired and replaced, opportunities for their re-use will be present which could assist in the promotion and support of non-ice activities such as Lacrosse.

The consolidation of six existing aging facilities into two new multi-pad facilities is anticipated to reduce operating, maintenance and recapitalization costs to the Municipality in excess of $2M per year. Furthermore, annual lifecycle reserves will be established at each of the two proposed facilities, and would be adequately funded through operating revenues of each facility.


Questions & Answers


Why is the Steering Committee recommending against increasing HRM’s ice sheet inventory?
This recommendation comes from the Long Term Arena Strategy Steering Committee which included 10 representatives from various ice sports, leagues, and associations, and two Councillors, who worked closely with user and stakeholder groups, volunteer boards, schedulers and staff to analyze the current ice inventory and project future demand. As a result of this work, the Steering Committee determined that an expansion of existing ice inventory is not required as usage is declining throughout the Region. Currently there are several facilities that are underutilized due to the age of the buildings and equipment; replacing HRM’s aging facilities with new ice sheets will likely attract more users, freeing up more time at the busier facilities.

I’m a league member/user/coach; how will this study affect my access to ice time in HRM?
The recommendations contained within this report establish a long term plan for HRM ice facility management, scheduling, recapitalization, access, and locations for the next few decades. This is an important distinction from increasing ice inventory, which the Steering Committee has determined is not required due to declining usage. The Steering Committee believes that improving the quality of existing ice facilities will ensure that they are better used and introducing new scheduling and access policies will improve their overall management.

This study represents a comprehensive review of the current ice inventory and project future demand by various user groups, residents, and leagues. The study was prepared by the Long Term Arena Strategy Steering Committee with 10 representatives from various ice sports, leagues, and associations, and two Councillors, who worked closely with user and stakeholder groups, volunteer boards, schedulers and staff in the preparation of this report.

Why are multi-pad facilities recommended to replace old facilities instead of community based single ice sheet arenas?
One of Regional Council’s focus areas is fiscal responsibility; co-locating new ice sheets in multi-pad facilities will save upwards of $20M in construction costs. The BMO 4-pad in Bedford cost $40M to construct ($10M per ice sheet), whereas a single ice sheet arena costs approximately $15M to construct. Multi-pad facilities also realize significant operating savings over single ice sheet arenas of $500K - $1M in annual savings.

Why not renovate old arenas instead of replacing them with new facilities?
The objective of the Arena Strategy is to address HRM’s long term ice requirements rather than implement a band-aid solution. Close to 60 per cent of HRM owned arenas are over 30 years old and have not received annual recapitalization funding to address facility issues.

Renovating existing facilities would require $1.9 – 5.4M per facility in capital costs, with no ability to generate the annual operating cost savings that can be obtained by co-locating multiple ice sheets in one facility. Significant financial and human resource efficiencies can be gained through the consolidation of single ice sheets into multi-pad facilities. There is also a greater risk that one or more of the older facilities will fail before work on all of the single arenas could be completed, whereas a multi-pad facility could replace several aging facilities following a 12-18 month construction project.

Why does HRM need a fair access policy? Will the policy prohibit my team/group/league from accessing prime time ice?
HRM has a mandate to provide community access to youth programming and the proposed fair access policy will help support that mandate. The policy is designed to offer equitable time to female and minor sport leagues first to improve their access to reasonable ice times, not to restrict prime time access from adult leagues. It’s not unreasonable to allocate more evening ice time to adult leagues that can use it. This policy is currently in place at the HRM-owned BMO Centre 4-pad and has been working well for user groups since its implementation.

How and when will the new centralized scheduling process be in operation? Will there still be onsite facility schedulers?
Currently ice facility scheduling is coordinated by each individual facility, with the exception of the 4 HRM-owned and operated arenas at Bowles, Gray, Devonshire and LeBrun, which are managed by HRM staff. Consolidating scheduling for all 20 municipal facilities will significantly improve ice reservations for users, facility scheduling staff, and HRM. The introduction of a one-stop-shop for ice time booking will enable the introduction of a more accessible, online reservation option for citizens and groups, rather than the current method of calling each facility one-by-one, searching for the best ice time available. Instead, users will be able to see all available ice time online and call or click one location for reservations.

HRM will work together with facility based scheduling staff to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible, and to provide training on navigating the new online system.

How will community spirit be sustained when single arenas are consolidated into multi-pad facilities intended to serve several communities?
Community and neighbourhood spirit is created and sustained for a variety of reasons – not simply the existence of neighbourhood based arenas. The economic efficiencies that can be gained by consolidating older, single ice sheets into multi-pad facilities may enable the municipality to invest in other community based amenities. Seasonal outdoor ice rinks are a good alternative to provide neighbourhood ice access during the winter months. It’s also important to note that not all single use facilities require replacement or significant upgrades in the short or medium term, and therefore would remain in operation as is for now. Any new multi-pad facilities will be strategically located to service adjacent communities.


Reports & Background


To PDF Acrobat Tips Information Report: Ice Allocation Policy
To PDF Acrobat Tips Advertisement for Steering Committee Members
To PDF Acrobat Tips Information Report: Outdoor Refrigerated Rinks
To PDF Acrobat Tips Council Report: Long Term Arena Strategy
To PDF Acrobat Tips Presentation: Project Overview
To PDF Acrobat Tips LTAS Steering Committee Terms of Reference
To PDF Acrobat Tips Community Access Plan



If you have questions or comments on the Long Term Arena Strategy, please email cfmp[at] or call 902-490-5713