Council approves $100K for further Memorial Cup-related arena upgrades

City will split $200K for rink

Kamloops council turned down city staff’s initial ask, but decided to approve some funds for a last-minute request to install a temporary platform inside Sandman Centre for the Memorial Cup.

City staff had asked council to consider spending $200,000 for the structure, which would allow for private suites and spaces for Canadian Hockey League officials, TSN broadcasters and team executives.

After some debate, council voted in favour of an amendment put forward by Coun. Mike O’Reilly, suggesting the city pitch in 50 per cent of the cost of the structure up to a maximum of $100,000.

O’Reilly said the city will be receiving a good return on its investment — staff estimated the Memorial Cup will generate about $10 million in economic spin-off — but noted there are other partners involved with the event.

“How is this affecting our local residents? Well, I can tell you the hotels, the restaurants, anybody that works in those venues will have an impact from that, so I think that's a good investment,” O’Reilly said.

“At the same time, I do think to me, it feels like this [request] was coming last minute. I think it's tough to justify. And as I said, really there’s three big players at the table here — City of Kamloops, Blazers and CHL.”

Byron McCorkell, City of Kamloops’ community and protective services director, said if O’Reilly’s amendment was approved, he would be going back to the Memorial Cup host committee to discuss the matter.

“There's some pretty smart folks around the table there that hopefully will be able to come up with a strategy that gets us this level of facility, and gets the Memorial Cup the attention it needs in our venue,” McCorkell said.

“That’s really what we're coming down to here, is if council wants to partner, then I'll take that back to them and see what the partnership looks like.”

McCorkell noted council previously approved about $900,000 for improvements to Sandman Centre ahead of the tournament.

However, he said only $120,000 of these funds were for upgrades specific to the Memorial Cup —a dehumidification system — while the rest of the money went to complete facility improvements already planned, but fast-tracked for the May event.

“The presentation today is simply to see if the council is willing to work with with us, and work with the host agency to see if we can come up with a little bit more than we had planned,” McCorkell said.

McCorkell told council that the need for a temporary elevated platform unfolded through ongoing conversations around preparations for the Memorial Cup.

He said Sandman Centre, built in 1993, is one of the smallest venues in the Western Hockey League, and the platform they have in mind will provide space for elevated suites but allow for flow along the concourse.

Coun. Stephen Karpuk said it was important to show what Kamloops has to offer, but said it’s “too bad” there can’t be a more permanent structure to benefit the arena going forward.

“But then, maybe this is the trial balloon that gives us that knowledge,” Karpuk said.

Coun. Bill Sarai said he felt like he was “getting squeezed in a vice,” wanting to support the Memorial Cup event and the Kamloops Blazers, but also holding concerns with an additional $200,000 ask.

“I also have to be respectful of our citizens when they say, ‘It’s going to be up for 10 days, you spent $200,000, but not one of these things are going to benefit any of the residents here. It's for the executives and some of the hockey officials,’” Sarai said.

“I think that should be on the CHL to pre-plan where are they putting the executives, what suite have we booked off with the Blazers.”

Council ultimately voted 8-0 in favour of O’Reilly’s amendment, offering a maximum of $100,000 or up to 50 per cent of the cost of a temporary platform structure. Coun. Kelly Hall recused himself from the discussion and the vote, as he sits on the Memorial Cup host organizing committee.

The Memorial Cup will get underway on May 26 and runs through June 4.

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