Saving the Oval Saving the Oval
9,000 have signed petitions, some are offering up cold, hard cash to keep Games rink.
OF HALIGONIANS are calling for the city to keep the skating oval on the Commons after the Canada Games are over, and some of them are putting their money where their mouth is.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, two petitions totalling about 9,000 signatures were presented to Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown), and there was a promise of significant private funding.
The latest cash pledge toward keeping the Canada Games Oval comes from the legacy fund from the 1990 world figure skating championships in Halifax. That event earned a profit of $1 million, and “we were allowed to keep 25 per cent of that," said Jane MacLellan, chairwoman of the 1990 event.
Over the years, as the legacy fund has grown through investments, the group administering it has committed $500,000 to figure skating but still has money left ove r.
“We waited 21 years for the right community project," MacLellan said.
So the group is promising to provide $100,000 over several years to the oval.
The outdoor rink, on which Canada Games speedskating events will be held next month, opened to the public on Dec. 20 for general skating. The original plan was for it to be torn down after the Games, but almost from the day it opened, people began clamouring for it to be made a permanent fixture.
Even in Tuesday’s bitter –16 temperatures, more than 30 skaters could be seen gliding over the ice on the North Common during the lunch hour.
“What you are seeing here is a real coalition of individuals, organizations, businesses all coming together for the right reasons to do something that is right for the community," John Gillis, the fundraising director for the Save the Oval Association, said at the news conference.
In addition to the money from the legacy fund, GoodLife Fitness has offered $200,000 for naming rights to the oval, the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association has promised $25,000 over five years and citizens have committed $ 3,000.
“There’ll be more announcements as we get more groups on board with us," said Andrew Feenstra, head of the Save the Oval Association and founder of the online petition savetheoval.ca.
About 8,500 people signed that petition, and it and a second petition with the signatures of about 400 elementary school students were presented Tuesday to Sloane.
Sloane said she’s overwhelmed by the public enthusiasm for the oval, and she expected to present the petitions to her colleagues on Halifax regional council later Tuesday.
Support for retaining the oval is mixed among councillors, Sloane said.
“Some are very much for this and some are very much against it," she said.
City staff are working on a report to determine how much it would cost to keep the oval permanently. Sloane said the report will take about another month.
She believes council’s decision will come down to cost.
“It’s going to be expensive, but we’re here to help you," Gillis said.
MacLellan added: “This is a very good thing for Halifax and the politicians need to understand that." Also supporting the oval Tuesday was Halifax native John-Paul Cody-Cox, CEO of Speed Skating Canada.
“For us, Olympians don’t start at high-performance centres.
They don’t start in Calgary ovals. They start on ponds. They start on community ovals like this with their families," Cody-Cox said.
About 200 young Nova Scotia athletes are involved in speedskating and there are about 15,000 across the country, he said.
“There is a waiting list in Nova Scotia for kids who want to try the sport," Cody-Cox said.
A permanent oval would give more youngsters a chance to try speedskating, and it could also serve as a host site for competitions, he said.