WHAT IS THE BUZZ ABOUT "SAVE SIMMONS" ?
Why is the City decommissioning Simmons Arena and Pool in Charlottetown?
Here is the background to understand why we are fighting to Save & Revitalize Simmons.
On December 17, 2020, City Council made a decision to decommission Simmons Arena in favour of a 3rd ice pad at CARI's Bell Aliant Centre at UPEI. According to City Hall documents, the Province suggested that CARI make an application to the ICIP Climate Mitigation Stream, which, if successful, would provide $15 million in government funding [our taxpayer money] of which $6 million would be federal, $5 million PEI government, and $4 million City of Charlottetown. The documentation states that in order to acquire this funding, "since this new 3rd pad at the Bell Aliant Centre is being constructed to replace Simmons Arena, it is a requirement that Simmons Arena and Pool will have to be decommissioned" including site rehabilitation.
This is the most recent in a series of thoughtless, neighbourhood-destroying decisions by the current mayor and some [not all] councillors. Since its creation in 1973, Simmons has been an ongoing success story and is treasured and highly attended by its neighbourhood residents. Simmons decommissioning may be the ultimate example of this mayor and some councillors totally ignoring and avoiding ANY public input and instead destroying the principal neighbourhood recreation centre which services a diverse and growing community. And if the Province has been an enabler in this sorry state of affairs, it should be held accountable.
Future of Charlottetown and the more than 15,000 people we reached with our Help SAVE SIMMONS post of a few days ago, want answers from the following people to the following questions:
1] To Mayor Brown, Councillor Mike Duffy, Councillor Kevin Ramsay: Why did you sell down the river the very people who elected you when you didn't stand up for Simmons, and instead traded Simmons rink and pool for a questionable 3rd CARI/Bell/UPEI ice surface? Will you belatedly support public engagement now re Simmons, so we can provide our input before your December 2020 approval proceeds further?
2] To Government of PEI: We are told by the City that the trade Simmons for CARI idea originated at a very high level in the Premier's Office. True or untrue? If true, why would you do that? Are you willing to meet with Simmons area reps so we can inform you of the importance of Simmons and why it shouldn't be the sacrificial lamb in the CARI 3rd pad funding request?
3] To the Province and Feds: What can possibly be the offsetting climate change benefits worth $15 million which would result from causing the closure of Simmons rink and pool thus requiring everyone in the Simmons neighbourhood to drive to UPEI for their ongoing recreation/fitness activities? Can we be provided with your justification in this case re climate mitigation benefits and costs?
4] To CARI, Bell, UPEI: Are your three organizations prepared to be enablers of a decision that closes down Simmons as a condition for you having one more rink? Does your organization condone pitting our Simmons neighbourhood against your UPEI institution because of an ill-conceived City Hall decision?
The foregoing are important questions that need answers. In addition to posting these questions here, we are also emailing a copy of this post with covering letters to appropriate parties seeking their responses. In the coming days, we will post responses received and we will advise you of those who are not responding. We also invite you to suggest additional questions/comments for these people on our Future of Charlottetown page.
In order to keep as many people as possible up to date on the SAVE SIMMONS campaign developments, it is very helpful if you share this post as widely as possible. Please stay safe and SHARE.
Future of Charlottetown, Facebook
LETTER TO EDITOR, THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER- JANUARY 2021
I am sure many people who frequently use the rink, pool and fields around Simmons Sport Centre, with considerable disbelief at the City of Charlottetown’s mayor and council proposed decommissioning of Simmons Sport Centre and the proposed construction of a third ice pad at the Bell Aliant Centre.
There are several issues with your statements Mr. Mayor, firstly the Simmons Sport Centre and the Canada Games are mutually exclusive. Furthermore, you never included the Simmons family in any discussions around proposed changes to this facility. A farm dating back to 1877 was gifted to the city for the purpose of recreation in 1947. I am quite sure they would not be very pleased with the proposal you and the council have put forward. Let’s be perfectly honest, if a third ice pad is built at CARI it will mean there will be no rink built at Simmons.
Mayor Brown, your comments about lowering your carbon footprint lack any kind of credibility when kids have for years walked and biked to the rink, fields and pools at Simmons. Along with accessibility is the fact there is no consideration of the positive impact that having a rink between a junior high and senior high school, along with five elementary schools within walking distance is a wonderful addition to creating a healthier, more vibrant community. Did the mayor and council consider the numerous new families that have moved into the downtown, and the number of low-income families that benefit from the Simmons Sport Centre?
On a personal note, my father as the former principal at West Kent School, Ted Redmond, took students every Friday afternoon to skate at this rink. I grew up playing soccer and football on those fields, went swimming every week in that pool, and now my daughter plays hockey in that rink. Simmons is an iconic structure and facility that requires commitment from the City of Charlottetown to ensure sporting facilities are open and available to all of our citizens. It is an investment into our children and their children’s very future. Centralizing facilities is and always will be a catastrophic mistake.
Mike Redmond is a former Allen Street resident.
LETTER TO EDITOR, THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER- FEBRUARY 2021
City council’s contemplation — or let’s face it — plan to tear down Simmons Sport Centre (and one supposes the swimming pool) shows a complete lack of understanding of the meaning of the concept of culture. Since the arena’s construction it has been an integral part of the community. It represents the culture, the belonging, of the citizens of Charlottetown. Simmons arena’s tiredness is not because it is not being used, but the exact opposite.
In its present location, and offering only one ice surface (plus a swimming pool) it has been an important meeting place for children and adults alike; it is "home" for many. It promotes civic pride, and in the case of team use, an attachment to the city of Charlottetown. Has council never heard “ Let’s root-toot-toot for the home team”? The HOME team.
The mayor proposes that a third ice surface at UPEI would be an advantage to the citizens of Charlottetown. He is missing the point. It would replace a small part of what Simmons arena does, but he ignores what Simmons represents.
UPEI’s facilities are fine, but they are designed for UPEI students. I can’t remember any enthusiasm for using a UPEI rink; I do recall the feeling of excitement of young Charlottetown hockey players at defending their home ice against "visiting" teams, even if they were only from a different part of the city – Sherwood-Parkdale. Or from outside the city.
Simmons arena is not just about a building. It is part of the fabric of the city of Charlottetown. Since its construction it has always been a community.
From a strictly financial point of view the city should get rid of all "unnecessary" facilities in the city – Victoria Park pool and ball diamond, Cody Banks arena, Sherwood bowling green, tennis courts, football and soccer fields and more – and place them all at UPEI.
One can see right away that this would cause an uproar. This is what culture means – a meeting place, a home, neighbourhoods, citizens, a sense of belonging. Young people, especially, gain a sense of civic pride when they have a meeting place. The sterile sports centre of UPEI automatically puts "ordinary" citizens of Charlotteton at a disadvantage; fitness centre – yes, swimming pool – yes, rinks – yes. But ordinary kids and adults are competing with paying UPEI students and their schedules; so the users of Charlottetown sports facility — go to the back of the line.
Not to mention the obvious – no walking to Simmons for a quick dip in the pool, no free parking – if there is any parking available. Then, for use of this fabulous new sheet of ice, an eternal walk to the rink carrying a ton of hockey gear.
It is a slap in the face to the citizens of the city that an architect has been hired to study this contemplated third ice surface at UPEI. Has one been hired to study a new Simmons arena complex, with ice surfaces, a proper pool, a walking track and rooms for other activities? Are the citizens being faced with a "done deal"? When so many city council proposals face significant opposition – often with appeals to IRAC – council obviously does not understand, or is not in sync with the desires of its citizens.
Every city council leaves a legacy. What will be this council’s legacy – the most buildings put up in the shortest time? Allowing developers to take the waterfront from city residents? Yes, the Simmons facility is a very valuable piece of land, but what could be more valuable than the health of Charlottetown’s citizens?
Author: Gary Walker, neighborhood resident & former Community educator