It is disheartening to see that the city of St. Catharines is doing the bare minimum in regards to a new arena for the OHL IceDogs. The Jack Gatecliff Arena is currently the oldest rink in the Ontario Hockey League and offers IceDog fans run down concessions, washrooms, seating, corridors and more. The fan experience upon visiting the outdated IceDog arena is unfortunately, for lack of a better term, subpar.

The IceDogs have heightened the city with a tremendous amount of community involvement and charitable work. Not to mention, the team sheds light on an otherwise struggling St.Catharines downtown. It is highly disappointing to see that St. Catharines city officials are not doing more to accommodate them. If the city has intentions of seeing the IceDogs remain in St. Catharines they have no other choice but to step up to the plate and support the team with a new facility. It is to point of embarrassment that a region this size is struggling to support an OHL franchise.

The construction of a new facility is critical to St. Catharines as it would market the city and region and provide intangible benefits to the surrounding community. Using tax dollars to subsidize a sport complex will always bring rise to discrepancy; however the economic trade-off of a new facility will provide tax revenue to the city and surrounding areas. So, even the taxpayers who do not enjoy hockey will in some way or form reap the benefits. It is also important to keep in mind the increase of quality-of-life benefits surrounding the community. These benefits are often not included in debate over subsidizing sport facilities due to the fact they are difficult to measure.

A major quality-of-life benefit that a new rink would provide the city with is the knowledge that local government is putting forth effort to develop unity throughout the community. Ever since the IceDog’s inaugural season (2007) a growing sense of pride has grown amongst citizens of St. Catharines.
Seeing former IceDog players such as Alex Pietrangelo represent Team Canada at the World Junior Championships and expand his footprint in the NHL allows Niagara fans to relate back to the team with satisfaction of their efforts in developing high-caliber players. Not long ago, Windsor built a brand new facility which indicates the city appreciates the significance of sport and recreation to the success of its municipality. This being said, it would be appropriate to point out that Windsor is marked as having the highest unemployment rate amongst all major Canadian cities.

The IceDogs five-year lease of the Jack Gatecliff Arena is set to expire in 2012, a rather short time frame in terms of constructing a new rink. The ultimate decision of whether or not the IceDogs remain in St. Catharines is in hands of local politicians who hopefully realize that not only do the IceDogs deserve a new facility, but so does the community.

Vicky Grygar
In the O Radio blogging team