If anyone knows about shortcomings in the design of the old Sarnia Arena, it’s Robert Christopher.
The Sarnia Legionnaires season ticket holder has attended games diligently over the past four seasons. He also has cerebral palsy and spends much of his time in a wheelchair.
That unique perspective as hockey fan and accessibility advocate has proven valuable to the ongoing Sarnia Arena Revitalization Project.
The nearly 70-year-old ‘Brock Street Barn’ is currently getting upgrades to the sound system, lighting, heating and concession stands as part of a $1.5-million revitalization.
As upgrades get done to the main entrance, washrooms and concessions, Christopher is working with city staff to ensure they exceed accessibility standards. That means determining at each stage whether they pass the ‘Rob Test.’
Parks and recreation manager Rob Harwood said those contributions have been very helpful.
“Every space should be accessible to everyone, and we’re working hard to try and make that achievable,” said Harwood.
“(It’s a) little more difficult with a really old building like Sarnia arena, but not impossible.”
Harwood said Christopher ensures the details are correct for things such as button heights, door widths and washroom maneuverability.
“Rob is very willing to help out and very interested in the success of the building and the success of the Legionnaires,” said Harwood.
One area of concern for Christopher was the barrier-free viewing area.
“There was little to no room with too many chairs,” he said.
Christopher, who is a familiar face at Legionnaire games, is also making a financial donation to the project.
“We can go by what the book tells us the needs are to accommodate folks with accessibility needs, but nothing’s better than having someone come out and show us directly,” Harwood said.