Friday, September 17, 2010

Alain Vigneault speaks out on Quebec City hockey rink

From the Vancouver Sun.

Another son of Quebec says if the federal government is going to fund hockey rinks in Quebec, they should instead look at the sorry condition of the community rinks around the province.

Personally, I have no problems with the Feds investing in public infrastructure anywhere in the country. As a taxpayer however, I agree with Alain Vigneault; if we are going to invest in sports facilities, we get a far better return on this investment in building facilities for youth and amateur sports. Let profitable professional teams fund their own facilities. If we can get our sedentary children away from the gameboys and Xboxes and out playing hockey or soccer or swimming, the future payoffs in reduced obesity and related chronic illnesses will be well worth a few hundred million in today's money.

Vigneault says that Quebec community rinks are "desuet" - which is translated as "antiquated", "quaint" or even "worm eaten" compared to facilities in BC communities where the Canucks have had training camps (Penticton and Vernon). Smaller communities in BC and most of the suburbs have wonderful public recreation facilities (and I don't begrudge them these) that are the envy of many of us here in Vancouver. While the ice rink situation (with the new Trout Lake and Hillcrest rinks) in Vancouver is improving (at least in quality if not in quantity), the soccer fields and swimming pools are, well ... desuet.

My kids are competitive swimmers, so I am most ware of the pool situation. Even with the addition of the new swimming pools at Hillcrest park and Killarny, the city is woefully short of pools and many of the pools do not support lanes. With the opening of Hillcrest Park, the Parks Board also chose to close Percy Norman and Mt. Pleasant pools. Sunset was closed 2 years ago when they built the new community centre (but neither Sunset or Mt. Pleasant supported 25m or 50m lanes). Hillcrest is a beautiful new $40M facility, and it is fine for training purposes, but it was intentionally handicapped so that it can't really host a swim meet. It has an adjustable depth shallow end that goes from 0 to 5 foot depth. The FINA minimum depth standard for sanctioned events is 2 meters. There is no space for any spectator seating, no starting blocks, no score boards or wiring for them, no anchors to install backstroke flags, and the pool can't be configured for 2x 25m short course pools. The 40 year old Vancouver Aquatic Centre is the only facility that can host a swim meet (it gets by the FINA 2m depth rule because of its age) and it is on borrowed time with a leaky pool tank.

The City's soccer fields are likewise - desuet. We have lots of the poorly maintained and improperly drained/graded gravel lots that are euphemistically called "all weather fields" but very few facilities that anyone would recognize as a soccer field. And baseball/softball parks - don't even go there. The City/Park's Board's official policy with respect to competitive athletics is that Vancouverites should "utilize existing facilities within the region" or more bluntly, leach off of the suburbs. Youth athletics teams and groups are not considered a part of the community rather are "elite user groups" who should look to the suburbs for facilities. A picnic in the park, feeding the geese and skunks or splashing around in whirlpools and water slides does not encourage a life long active lifestyle. Amateur youth athletics does.

While Federal funding for community recreation facilities across the country is worthy of consideration, I am not expecting the Feds to pony up to fund new pools, soccer fields or community centres in Vancouver. Vancouver just got a whack of Federal money for Olympic venues - we have got our fair share. It was the City that chose to build a community pool (and Olympic Curling rink) that doesn't support life long athletic activity. But if the Federal government is determined to build arenas in Quebec, they should focus on providing recreation facilities in smaller communities and let Quebec City use its own money to attract an NHL team.

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