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The future of Rolling Mix Concrete Arena

 

Rolling Mix Concrete Arena opened in 1958 and has been the home of the Prince George Spruce Kings since 1972. While it is not the oldest arena in the BCHL, it has some unique features when compared to other arena’s in the league

It uses bench seating instead of stadium seats, the score clock isn’t directly above centre ice, and it has a flat roof supported by horizontal steel tresses internally, and externally. The arena is also beginning to show its age.

Of the six arenas the City of Prince George owns and operates, RMCA is the costliest one to maintain, according to a June 2019 article posted on Princegeorgematters.ca.

In the article, RMCA was identified as a facility that should be replaced with something new. Citing Prince George’s 2019 Civic Facilities Renewal Strategy, it states that Rolling Mix Concrete Arena requires significant renewal investment in order to continue the service it’s expected to.

The city has invested $1.8 million on projects like replacing the roof and other exterior upgrades over the last 11 years and will need between $9.5 and $11 million over the next decade to keep the arena up to snuff.

According to City of Prince George Utilities Manager Christy Brown, RMCA could be a candidate to consider replacing with a modern facility instead of investing in renovations. Based on the costs of arena upkeep, the best decision is for the City to replace the RMCA with a newer facility.

The best example of what form that could take is West Fraser Centre in Quesnel.

What a replacement could look like

West Fraser Centre opened on September 16, 2017. It was built at a cost of $20.6 million and seats 1,300 people. When adjusted for inflation the total cost rises to just over $20.7 million.

The arena was approved in a referendum vote as part of a joint initiative. The Cariboo Regional District and the City of Quesnel, under the CRD’s North Cariboo Recreation Parks Function, jointly collaborated on the project.

West Fraser Centre can be a model for how the City of Prince George could replace Rolling Mix Concrete Arena. Having already engaged in two other necessary infrastructure projects, the City is capable of absorbing the cost of building a new facility.

In a recent referendum, the City of Prince George approved a replacement for Fire Hall #1 and a replacement for the Four Seasons Leisure Pool. The cost to replace both buildings is $50 million which the city will repay over the next twenty years.

The cost of maintaining the Four Seasons Leisure Pool was estimated at $10 million over the next few years. It’s telling that voters chose to replace ageing public facilities rather than invest in renovations that would disrupt service.

As for how this could affect the Spruce Kings there are several possibilities. While the City constructs a new facility, it could continue to operate RMCA.

The City could also demolish RMCA and build a new facility on the same site. If that occurs, the Spruce Kings could play their home games at CN Centre or Kin 1.

Other venues for the Spruce Kings

The CN Centre is a multi-purpose arena with a capacity of 5,582. The arena’s capacity is more than the arenas in both Penticton and Cranbrook.

As for Kin 1, it is a 1,000 seat arena right next to the CN Centre. The arena was completely rebuilt for the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

In both instances, the Spruce Kings would have to share the arena with other tenants. At CN Centre, it would be shared with the Western Hockey League’s Prince George Cougars. As for Kin 1, they would share it with the various Cariboo Cougars teams.

Of course, COVID-19 has put the world on pause so don’t expect a decision on Rolling Mix Concrete Arena anytime soon. However, when it’s time to move forward, it seems prudent for the City to replace the home of the Spruce Kings rather than prolong its life.