After roughly three-and-a-half hours of discussion on Monday, city council voted 6-5 to allocate the funding toward the $41 million project, which will include two pads of ice to be used by the Saskatchewan Huskies and the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association. The facility will also include a large gymnasium.
The money comes in addition to $1 million the city had already committed to the arena, which will eventually replace Rutherford Rink.
The additional funding “certainly helps build momentum,” for the project according Tim Hodgson, the group’s Saskatoon fundraising committee chair.
“It gets us closer to the finish line,” Hodgson said to reporters after the vote was taken.
“We have some asks out there, some significant asks and it gives us the ability to go back and say, hey guess what, city council just kicked in three million, where are you at on your request?”
City council heard Monday from a number of speakers who stressed that the new facility could help alleviate Saskatoon’s ice time shortage, which forces families to drive out of town for practices and tournaments.
Local minor hockey player and referee Steig Zarry told council that some of his games don’t end until 11 p.m. even on school nights, due to the lack of ice time.
“You’re not getting home until near midnight and you’re probably not getting in bed until past midnight,” Zarry told council.
“It affects your school day; it’s hard to be exhausted, stay focused, write tests and even just function.”
Supporters of the projected 3,500 seat arena said the facility will also have the capacity to hold other sporting events unrelated to hockey. The group has targeted the fall of 2018 as its potential opening date.
A number of city councillors admitted the new arena would be positive for Saskatoon, however argued against allocating $3 million to the project outside of the city’s budget process.
The group of councillors cited concerns over the upcoming provincial budget and said it would be fiscally irresponsible to provide the funding before it was released.
Ward 7 Coun. Mairin Loewen led an effort to defer a vote on the funding until the city’s budget deliberations later this year, however her motion was defeated.
The final vote tally saw Troy Davies, Randy Donauer, Bev Dubois, Sarina Gersher, Zach Jeffries and Mayor Charlie Clark vote in favour of the $3 million contribution.
Cynthia Block, Hilary Gough, Darren Hill, Ann Iwanchuk and Loewen were in opposition.