Planning ahead: Local groups react to Germain closure

Barry Wright

The primary user groups at Sarnia’s Germain Park Arena are saddened, but understanding of city council’s recent unanimous decision to close the aging facility.

“We’re disappointed we’re losing the arena, but it’s not going to have any negative effects on our program,” said Ron Rivait, spokesperson for the Sarnia Ice Hawks, a provincially competitive sledge hockey team which has called Germain home for a number of seasons.

He said the group, which includes many players with mobility challenges, will miss the proximity of parking to the entrance at the Sycamore Drive location and the ample space available at the rink for the sleds used in the sport to be stored between games and practices.

But, Rivait believes the Ice Hawks will be able to transition to either the Clearwater Arena or the RBC Centre next season.

“We know that the city is very, very keen to make sure we get into a new home with full accessibility which is obviously the main concern for us,” he said.

The situation is much the same for Perry’s Wild 3 on 3 Hockey League, now in its ninth season at Germain.

“We are sad that the arena is being closed,” said league co-convenor Jeff Perry. “It was a perfect fit for the type of program that we run.”

Perry said the staff at Germain has always been exceptional and he will miss spending time at the rink with them.

The former Maple Leaf draft choice believes the league will continue at one of the remaining city arenas next season and for seasons to come, but says nothing has been decided yet.

In the meantime, the Sarnia Hockey Association says some of its youngest players, Novice house league and Novice and Atom rep teams, will need to be moved to other rinks next season due to the closure, but SHA Chairman Mike Johnson is hopeful that “everything fits.”

He says despite the schedule changes necessary to the minor hockey players, his association fully supports council’s decision to close Germain Park, noting the study used to make the decision was very thorough.

“It might take a couple of years for everything to level out,” he said.

Sarnia Girls Hockey Association will form a committee to discuss how to fairly allocate ice time now that the rink will no longer be available for its purposes.

As for the future of the Germain building, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says public input will be sought to gauge how the community feels the facility should be utilized in the future.  But, details have not been finalized yet, he said.