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Vote close on new arena name

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In a close vote Monday night, “Memorial Centre” eked out “’52 Canadians Centre” as the name for the town’s skating, pool, and fitness complex on Gillon Avenue.

The straw vote taken in the committee of the whole meeting was 4-2 after reviewing the list of 11 names suggested by the public.

Instead, “’52 Canadians Arena” will be affixed to the new ice surface now under construction once council passes the bylaw at its Nov. 15 meeting.

It was project manager Brian Avis who submitted the name Memorial Centre or Memorial Rec. Centre while Coun. Sharon Tibbs had suggested ”’52 Canadians Centre.”

The other suggestions were:

•Fort Frances Sportsplex (Dede Egan);

•The Canadians Ice Hall (Fern Pochailo);

•The Sports Centre 2000 and the Millennium Sports Centre (Mark Buist);

•Fort Frances Memorial Centre (Anne Zucchiatti);

•Ice for Kids Arena (Tammy Riordon); and

•Veterans Memorial Centre or Veterans Memorial Place (anonymous).

Egan also suggested “Ice for Kids” Arena as the name of the new ice surface being built.

The only thing for certain going into the name debate was that the current ice surface would keep the name of “Memorial Arena.”

“That was never going to change,” assured Coun. Dave Bourgeault, who chaired the committee of the whole meeting.

Coun. Tibbs led the debate on the side of the ’52 Canadians name, winning over Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, who initially favoured the Millennium Sports Centre suggestion.

“I believe this group of people gave us a sports legacy,” Coun. Tibbs argued, noting the former Allan Cup champions are still recognized by hockey buffs all across the province as the team from the little town that could.

“The Northwest Hall of Fame recognized them, I think it’s time this community does the same,” she said.

But Coun. Deane Cunningham and Coun. Bill Martin strongly fought for keeping the word “Memorial” in the name of the overall facility.

“We built this [new arena] with the idea the Memorial [Arena] facility may have to be removed later,” Coun. Cunningham noted.

He stressed the importance of cementing the “Memorial” name with the new facility in honour of the war veterans the original arena was named for.

Coun. Bourgeault also brought up the idea of naming the new ice surface after the late Danny Johnson, a former pro hockey player and local businessman, which gathered some support from Coun. Struchan Gilson if council went with the ’52 Canadians name on the outside.

But Mayor Glenn Witherspoon warned against naming the new rink after any of the Fort Frances natives who made it to the pro ranks.

“Danny Johnson was a personal friend of mine and I was a pallbearer at his funeral but there are too many good hockey players [to choose just one],” he remarked.

Meanwhile, the seats at the new arena will be red and blue, with the rest of the interior colours to be decided on shortly, Brian Avis stated in his report to council Monday.

Avis, who was not present at Monday’s meeting, thanked council in his report--dated Oct. 20--for making their colour selection.

The chairs in the centre of the rink, between the two blue lines, will be red while the seats at either end of the arena will be blue. Separation of the two colours will be at the aisles.

“The architects will be presenting recommendations on interior colour schemes on Thursday [Oct. 28],” Avis said. “You will receive notification of this milestone meeting.”

Avis also noted all the major ice surface trusses have been put in place.

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