VERNON -- Greater Vernon residents have approved a plan to add a second ice sheet to Kal Tire Place in Vernon.
A referendum held Saturday by the Regional District of North Okanagan saw 4,265 vote Yes (56%) and 3,331 vote No (44%).
Using those figures, the number of voters was 7,596 of the 47,224 eligible voters, for a turnout of 16%.
The vote gives RDNO approval to borrow $13.25 million to finance construction of a second ice sheet at the Vernon and District Multi Use facility.
Residents of Vernon, Coldstream and RDNO Electoral Areas B and C were eligible to vote.
The new facility is seen as a replacement for the 78 year old Civic Arena, which city officials say could fail at any time, and is costly to maintain and repair.
The new ice sheet is planned for the north end of the building, and would take up to three years to design and build.
Once it's done, the current plan is to tear down the Civic Arena and turn that site into a park, and perhaps use the eastern portion of it to extend 29th Street as a north south traffic corridor.
The cost for the average household ($350,000) is estimated at $24 a year, for 20 years.
Supporters of the vote included all ice user groups like minor hockey which pledged $20,000 for the new building, along with nearby hotels and restaurants.
Critics included some residents on fixed incomes who were opposed to the tax hike, those that felt they would get no use of a new ice sheet, some who didn't like where it would be built, and people who felt other projects like a 100 metre pool or new infrastructure should have been more of a priority.
Mayor Likes Vote Outcome But Not Turnout
Vernon's mayor says it's great to see voters wanting to see the community move forward -- and grow.
Akbal Mund was pleased the Greater Vernon arena referendum passed by a 56% margin.
It allows the regional district to proceed with a new 13.2 million dollar arena at the north end of Kal Tire Place which should be done in three years.
Mund says growth is good for residents...and businesses.
"I believe that Vernon is heading in the right direction -- Greater Vernon I can say. We have a new track (next to Okanagan College) and we will have a twin ice facility, and it also will bring in economic benefits for hosting provincial shows."
Mund says a recent Snow Show at Kal Tire Place was an example of how many people a show like that can draw from Vancouver and Calgary.
"Us being central between Vancouver and Calgary, it helps us."
The results -- which came after a 16% voter turnout of about 76-hundred -- means the average home will pay an extra $24, for 20 years.
Mund was disappointed in the turnout, but doesn't think it waters down the 56% approval rating for the project.
"People who want to vote, get out and vote. I understand that, but I just wish more would get out an vote, not just in this election. You want to have a strong voice out of everybody, not just a small percentage of the residents," Mund tells Kiss FM.
Mund credits the City's Recreation Services Director Doug Ross and Cameron Grant from the Arena Advocacy Group for letting the public know why a new arena was needed to replace the Civic.
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