Staff Propose Closing Memorial Arena

Ever since the Cobourg Community Centre opened in 2011 with two ice pads, there has been a question of what to do with the Jack Heenan Arena and the Memorial Arena.  In late 2011 the West Northumberland Curling Club took over the newer Jack Heenan Arena but the aging Memorial Arena was still being used each winter (well, Labour Day to March 5). But now the cost of necessary repairs and upgrades look to put an end to its life as an Arena. The building could still be used for something else and an Ad Hoc committee and a Public meeting are recommended to help with a decision. There are still some users but staff believe they can be accommodated at the CCC and at other nearby Arenas.

Memorial Arena
Memorial Arena

This process was initiated by Mayor John Henderson during the budgeting process earlier this year so a report with staff recommendations was presented to Council on July 22. The report made it seem likely that the Memorial Arena will cease to be used for Hockey and perhaps get re-purposed; staff are pointing to the soon to be released Cultural Plan for ideas for usage of its 35,728 square feet of floor space.

The Memorial Arena opened in January 1950 but a fire in 1953 closed it until it was rebuilt in 1954. (Before 1950, I believe hockey was only played outside).  Additions to the main building took place in 1992 and 1997. And of course, accessibility per AODA was not applicable then so it does not meet AODA standards which will be mandatory by 2025.

Current usage

In 2018 in prime time, the Arena was used 64% of the time and less than 5% of the time in non-prime time.  [Prime Time: all day Saturday and all day Sunday and also 4:00 pm till close Monday to Friday.  Non Prime Time: 8:00 am until 4:00 pm Monday to Friday. See link below for more usage stats.] 

Current Operating Cost

In 2018, the approved budget to operate the Memorial Arena was $174,286 with the actual cost being $187,409 as per the below chart.

Description 2018 budget Actual  Variance
Total revenue ($148,057) ($140,693) ($7,364)
Total expenditures $322,343 $328,102 ($5,759)
Net cost to Town $174,286 $187,409 ($13,123)

A Condition Assessment of the Memorial Arena was completed by Pinchin Ltd, in February 2018 as part of the Town of Cobourg’s asset management plan. This report included specialist reviews of the mechanical, electrical, fire and life safety systems, AODA and code compliance.

The following table lists the estimated costs (see link below for full details on years 6 to 25):

Element Year 1-5 Years 6-25 All years
Building envelope $41,165 $348,519 $389,684
Structure $34,196 $210,322 $244,518
Building interior $22,579 $655,251 $677,830
Exterior site elements $96,731 $345,923 $442,654
Mechanical $797,129 $1,077,383 $1,874,512
Plumbing $27,702 $110,679 $138,381
Fire and life safety $36,827 $194,757 $231,584
Electrical Systems $52,020 $208,964 $260,984
Site services—Mains $31,212 $42,218 $73,430
Accessibility and Code Compliance $574,715 $100,781 $675,496
Contingencies $22,722 $300,290 $323,012
TOTAL $1,736,998 $3,595,087 $5,332,085

There are also concerns about a possible environmental contamination. If the headers which supply brine to the floor were to fail, the clean up would be costly and new headers would cost several hundred thousand dollars.  There is also mould which should be removed at a cost of $48,000.

Based on these costs and the limited usage, staff then looked at ways to accommodate the small number of users (who, by the way, come from nearby areas – not just from Cobourg) and found that the CCC could provide more ice time and Baltimore, Port Hope and Grafton Arenas can accommodate enough additional ice rental hours.  That is, with the Arena closed, everyone wanting ice time could get it although not perhaps at the hours wanted.

Decommissioning would cost up to $ 50,000 and the building would still require fire protection and insurance at $ 25,000 per year. But the savings each year that the Memorial building is not open would be at least $150,000. Staff recommend that this amount be placed in a holding account each year for future repurposing of the building.

So the final recommendation by staff is that:

The Memorial Arena remain closed (it is closed for the summer) and that an Ad Hoc Committee be struck to determine the future use of the Memorial Arena. The Community Services Division is also currently conducting a Cultural Master Plan. As part of this review it is important that an ad hoc committee be struck to conduct a thorough and proper review of potential future uses of this longstanding building. An additional memo will be forthcoming with details about this proposed ad hoc committee (and a related public meeting).

It is planned to be on the Agenda for the Council meeting on 12 August.


  • Staff Report – link lost since it was on old Civic web site

Hockey Ice time Users

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Deborah O'Connor
4 years ago

Being a life-long Cobourger, memories abound. Standing in the cold with my mother watching the arena burn down in ’54. Endless hours over the years watching the boys play hockey and taking figure skating lessons for girls. Weekend open skating to canned organ music. Saturday night dances in the canteen. The dreadfully long cold walk from the rink home to the bottom of Abbott Boulevard.

And now some Toronto banker wants to tear it down? I DON’T THINK SO, SIR!
(Just joking…)

Fact Checker
Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
4 years ago

I’m quite sure that many others also have similar fond memories and many who don’t. As these memories are so dear to you and not so to others it seems only fair that you should bear the cost of preserving them.
So, Ms. O’connor, when can the Town expect to receive your check for $1.7M on behalf of preserving your fond memories?

manfred s
Reply to  Fact Checker
4 years ago

Grouch…or Grinch…whatever feels right!
You did see the “just kidding”, right?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  manfred s
4 years ago

I share the same memories as Deborah (except the bottom of Abbott), but nowhere did I read that she wanted the building preserved for the memories. I don’t understand why Fact Checker and Paul Pagnuelo slagged her for no reason other than her sincere iteration of memories common to those born and raised here postwar.

Tear the damn thing down. It has no architectural distinctiveness nor worth. The building is a blight because it is the personification of mediocrity. It was built exclusively for utility. This is the demand of tightwads and Spartans.

I spent three decades in Toronto working in the financial industry handling other people’s treasure. Canada’s banking system is outstanding in terms of stability, security, trust, confidence, ambition, and profitability. Bankers are not an endangered nor powerless minority.

Paul Pagnuelo
Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
4 years ago

I’ll never understand what it is about the career I chose for 43 years that you so dislike. Or is it me personally that you detest? In any event if you can find a way to come up with a minimum of $1.7 Million without cutting essential services or sacrificing priority capital projects, I’d be interested in hearing what viable solutions you propose.

Paul Pagnuelo
4 years ago

Faced with a minimum refurbishment cost of $1.7 Million over the next 5 years and as much as $5.3 Million over the next 25 years, the answer of what to do is obvious. Cobourg taxpayers don’t have that kind of money to spend when there are so many other capital projects that take priority.

The Town should offer the building and land to a non-profit organization on the condition all future upkeep is at the organization’s expense. Otherwise, demolish the building and sell the land.

On this occasion, Town staff have provided Council with a well thought out recommendation and I commend them for doing so.

4 years ago

This is curious to me – if the Memorial Arena is so under utilized why does NMHA have bantam and midget hockey games scheduled for 10 pm at the JBCC on weekday night – when kids have jobs, school, exams, etc… Why does HL hockey have such terrible ice times?

4 years ago

Would make an excellent year around market place similar to the St.Lawrence Market!

4 years ago

That’s too bad. Lots of memories to be had at Memorial. It’s a far better arena than Grafton so kind of funny some people may have to travel there.