Market Insider By Isaac Olson 1622 Views

Why Montreal's promise to build refrigerated outdoor rinks has gone unfulfilled

In November 2016, the City of Montreal launched a three-year plan to install outdoor, refrigerated ice rinks around the city as a way to keep residents skating no matter how mild the winter gets.

Three years have passed, and none have been installed. And it may be several years yet before Montreal gets a single new refrigerated ice rink, CBC News has learned.

It all comes down to cost, said Coun. Hadrien Parizeau, the executive committee member in charge of sports and recreation.

When the previous administration announced the plan, officials earmarked $7.3 million and said the first rink would open as early as 2017.

The rinks were then estimated to cost between $1 million and $1.5 million each. But it turns out that per-rink assessment was off by about $8 million.

Last year, the city finally drew up plans and put out a call for tenders for a rink and Zamboni garage to be installed in Lalancette Park, in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough.

Parizeau said the lowest bid came in at around $9 million — busting the entire three-year budget by some $1.7 million. 

Back to drawing board

The city's central administration offered to invest the entire $7.3-million budget in that one rink, as long as the borough covered the rest of the cost. However, borough officials refused, so now it's back to the drawing board, Parizeau said.

"We're taking a step back to see what will be the next investment in ice rinks," said Parizeau. "We didn't cancel the program."

Now the city is looking for the perfect location for a single new rink.

Parizeau said there is a list of criteria to be met. For starters, neighbours will have to accept the installation of a hockey rink and garage in a public park, and the borough has to agree to share the cost, he said.

"We're going to work for this, for sure," said Parizeau.

"We know with climate change, the rain, the natural ones are really hard to maintain. For sure, we want to do it, but we need to find a good place for it."

Though he was unable to predict a timeline, he said $7.5 million will be set aside for the project.

Cost estimates off by millions

Parizeau's predecessor in his role on the executive committee was Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough Mayor Jim Beis. 

When Beis made the announcement three years ago, his per-rink cost estimate fell in line with the refrigerated outdoor rinks installed by the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation. Under its Bleu Blanc Bouge program, six rinks have been opened in the city, at a cost of roughly $1.5 million each.

Élizabeth Desjardins-Côté, a spokesperson for the foundation, said that investment covers the installation of the rink and a warming hut, but maintenance is the city's responsibility.