Soccer groups are one of the biggest users of the SASCU Indoor Memorial Arena.
Salmon Arm Council announced Monday, June 11 that it is purchasing the indoor arena from the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association (SASLAA), the organization which runs the annual fall fair.
The agreement will see the city paying $420,000 for the building at 351 Third St. SW as well as a laneway along Third Avenue SW – about the same price the association paid the city.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Coun. Chad Eliason said, explaining the community gets an asset while SASLAA doesn’t have to take on a financial burden.
“This is a great day for Salmon Arm. A lot of positive will come in the long term.”
Kevin Harrison, executive director of the Shuswap Youth Soccer Association, calls the announcement very positive for the community.
He said he’s hopeful “we can all work together and get something done. We’re willing to put in some effort and resources. You just have to be satisfied it’s worth it with the existing building.”
He says with the building 60-or-so years old and full of structural unknowns, a hard look will have to be taken as to whether it’s financially feasible to upgrade it.
“Are you putting a band-aid on a 20-stitch cut?”
Harrison commends the agricultural association for their years running the arena, which included facing a financial hit when asbestos was discovered in the building.
“It’s a monumental task for a volunteer-run association. They’ve done a good job and I think they made the right decision.”
The biggest problem for the soccer club has been the heating system – or lack thereof.
“We run programs with kids as young as three years old,” he says. “The biggest thing is it can get pretty cold in there.”
He also points out that turf companies say turf is good for 10 or 15 years, while the turf in the arena is nearly 30 years old, and was put down on concrete.
Harrison says youth soccer proposed doing some upgrades about five years ago but their plan was turned down. He said there will be a lot of due diligence to be done in deciding how to move forward.
“Ultimately it comes down to what people are willing to spend.”
Several other soccer groups use the indoor arena, as well as archery and rugby groups.
Mayor Nancy Cooper said the city wanted to make sure the area stays in community hands.
She said the city will be assessing the work as well as talking with the different groups who use it.
Carl Bannister, the city’s chief administrative officer, stated in an email that there have been no decisions made yet about repairs, but “extension of the life of the building (which will inevitably involve repairs) was one of the reasons why council decided to make this investment.”
Phil Wright, representing SASLAA, told council the board is very pleased.
“It was the farsightedness of council and staff who said, yes, we can make this work for both of us.”
He said the main idea for SASLAA is to have a home for indoor exhibits. Under the city’s ownership, which will be finalized when its general capital reserve bylaw is adopted, SASLAA will continue to use the indoor arena to house its fall fair exhibits.