One arena, please
Advisory committee to tell council to build soon

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 20/99) - One of the biggest ticket items council will be considering for the 2000 budget will be a replacement for the aged Gerry Murphy Arena.

City council is anticipating receiving a set of recommendations on where and what to build early next month, just as deliberation of the 2000 budget begins.

"We're all just about in agreement we're not going to be able to get a twin pad done at this time," said Gary Vivian, chairman of the committee bringing forward the recommendations.

He said the consensus among committee members is that the city should build a single arena as soon as possible.

That is also what a recently released arena feasibility study indicated.

The study recommended selecting a site for a twin-pad arena and multi-purpose facility that can be developed in phases over the next 5-10 years.

"The project needs to start immediately with a replacement for Gerry Murphy Arena," the report recommended.

Though it will recommend the city only build one arena at this time, the committee has been looking for a site big enough to allow for future expansion, including another ice pad and other recreational facilities. And, of course, parking.

"There's not a lot, to be quite honest," said Vivian of properties within the city that fit the bill.

The committee has narrowed the selection down to three or four sites, including the site of the old GNWT liquor warehouse, the open field beside Sir John Franklin High School and a property behind the Explorer Hotel.

But a mystery site is what the committee is really hoping for. Vivian said the site would be cheaper to build on and better than any of those currently being considered.

He would not reveal where the property is, explaining the city is currently trying to work out details related to the site.

"It's the best (site) and the cheapest to develop," said Vivian. The property will be discussed at a meeting at City Hall Thursday, he said.

The city has until this December to come up with a plan that will convince the fire marshall it is making progress toward finding an alternative to the Gerry Murphy Arena, which is not up to fire code.

Cost estimates for a new single pad arena range from $4.8 million to $5.8 million.

"The bottom line is we won't have to borrow any money to do it," said Vivian.

The arena advisory committee is composed of representatives of user groups, the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, the education districts, one representative of sports groups that do not use arenas, Mayor Dave Lovell and Coun. Cheryl Best.

The draft 2000 budget is scheduled for release Nov. 8.