Spryfield Lions Rink to be replaced by new arena

The Halifax community of Spryfield will be getting a brand new arena to replace the long-standing Spryfield Lions Rink, a fixture in the neighbourhood for more than 50 years.

On Monday, a public engagement session on a facility is being held at the Captain William Spry Centre from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feedback can also be submitted in an online survey until July 21.

"What we're really interested in is hearing from the community about what a new facility should look like, what it should include, what kind of programming should be in it," Coun. Patty Cuttell, who represents the area, told CBC News in an interview Friday.

The survey asks respondents how involved they've been with the rink over the last two to three years. It then lists a bevy of options for amenities — two ice surfaces, indoor sport courts, community rooms and a fitness facility are among the options — and provides the opportunity to prioritize them from very important to not important.

The Drysdale Road building is approaching the end of its life, Cuttell said.

"There's some structural issues with the building. There was a fire there last year so the kitchen is no longer functional. And just in terms of upgrading it for energy efficiency, you know, it's in need of replacement," she said.

Growing community

Cuttell said the goal is to have an arena opened by September 2027.

"Spryfield has changed a lot, particularly recently. There's been a lot of development out here, a lot of growth, a lot of newcomers into the community and so the goal of this open house and survey is to do a needs assessment to ensure that the new facility meets the needs of the community," Cuttell said.

The original rink was built in 1972 by the Spryfield Lions Club — the same charitable group that brought the Santa Claus parade and wave pool to the area.

An exterior view of the Spryfield Lions Rink. The 52-year-old facility has reached the end of its life and plans are underway to replace it.
An exterior view of the Spryfield Lions Rink. The 52-year-old facility is nearing the end of its life and plans are underway to replace it. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

In its first year of operation, according to the rink's website, it used a public address system that was "salvaged" from the old Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Company (MT&T) and bleachers from the Halifax Common. The ice "was cleaned by hand" and then flooded with a 170-litre barrel.

Joe Cooper, vice-president of the Spryfield Lions Club, said the club ran it independently until 2006, when the city became the new owner. But part of the agreement included giving the club "exclusive use" of the Lions Den, a space inside the facility.

"With the growth of the population out here, there is a need for a new facility and an expanded facility. And I also think there's a need for the Spryfield Lions Club to be still involved in the community and helping out the community wherever possible. A lot of people come to us and seek assistance," Cooper said of the longtime community charity.

Cooper said he's hoping the club will have a guaranteed space in the new arena.

"We have been for many years assisting people with funds for medical stuff, for [J.L. Ilsley High School's] safe graduation, scholarships and all that kind of stuff," he said.

"And without the den, we're not going to be able to do that."

Acknowledging Spryfield Lions Club

Bruce Holland, the executive director of the Spryfield Business Commission and a board member of the rink, said the facility "means everything" to the community. He said he would like to see a two-pad ice rink for the arena.

"I know HRM just needs the ice, but we'll have some consultations with the community and see what the community's wishes are and I'm sure it'll be more than just a rink," Holland said.

He said the Lions Club should be acknowledged in the new build.

"Members of the Lions Club built that rink. I know some of them put up their houses as collateral to get the money to do it and we need to be mindful of that and make sure they are recognized when the new facility is created."