As part of the planning process for the redevelopment of the Centennial Arena, the City of Winkler met with various stakeholder groups throughout the day on Thursday, ending with a general public session. City Manager Jody Penner says there are various tiers of user groups they're working with as stakeholders to get information on what the community sees as needs and some of the wants for the arena's redevelopment.

"We're hearing about capacity; people are looking for some extra seating. Storage is a big thing as well. From our internal stakeholders - just flow through the building," said Penner. "Things have changed a lot since we built the Meridian Exhibition, they're just talking about access control and things like that."

The next step is to continue developing the scope of the project, and the requirements. Penner said the city is using a construction method called the Design-Build process. In that type of construction management, he says it's very important to scope out all of the requirements. 

"And then in the end, the group that wins the bid to design and construct has a little bit of flexibility in some of the design," said Penner. "So, Winkler has the ability to 'hard spec' some things, but otherwise we want to give them the general scope of the project and allow them some flexibility for innovation, but also for helping to meet a guaranteed maximum price." 

"This is an old building. It's a Centennial arena, and it isn't as efficient as it could be for current standards," said Penner. "So, a big change will be in energy efficiency, insulation, the cladding of the building, the mechanical system, and ventilation. All of those things are going to see a big boost to current code." 

Upgraded lighting is also planned for the redevelopment. Penner says the lighting at the Centennial Arena is not up to ideal standards. "So, when you look over on the Icon Arena, and the Meridian Exhibition Centre, it's great lighting, and that's the type of lighting that we want for this arena as well."

The washroom facilities will also be upgraded to bring them up to code. Additional washrooms will likely be needed as well as the capacity of the arena will also increase.

Penner says seating capacity will increase, although it's unclear how much at this point. He said it may go to "What exactly will it be? We don't really know right now. Will it be 1,500 or 1,600? We don't know for sure, but it will be in that range."

Currently, Penner says the Centennial Arena has the capacity for between 1,000 to 1,200 spectators.

Ideally, Penner says the construction timeline is for work on the redevelopment to begin immediately after the 2023/2024 hockey season, with the hopes of completion in time for the hockey season the following year in 2025. 
Once the project gets underway, the Winkler Flyers will need to find a different arena to play on, as the Centennial Arena is their home rink. Penner says they would love to have the Flyers remain playing in Winkler during the construction, but that has yet to be determined.

"I think we'd love to have the Flyers stay here and use the Icon Arena. It would have a reduced capacity, but we'd look to see if we can try to do a few things in that area. And they may not be able to hit every game there. But I think for the most part, I would like to see them be able to still play here."  

Penner noted the city will also continue to collect further public feedback through a SURVEY, which can be found on the Projects page of the City's website. "And then on an ongoing basis, we can use that page on our website (Projects) to give feedback to the public. And our stakeholder groups, we'll meet with a little bit more closely and work with them to make sure that we build something that's going to be right for the community, and that's going to last as a growing community."