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Delta puts 'impractical' deal on ice

Agreement signed with sports groups is abandoned

It makes sense to put in ice earlier at the Ladner Leisure Centre.

That's the reason given by Delta as the Ladner Pioneers continue to cry foul over a recent decision to move all dry floor games out of the leisure centre in August, starting this year.

The lacrosse team's playoff games would be relocated to the Sungod Recreation Centre in North Delta.

The Vancouver Giants hockey club, which has been operating a hockey school at the South Delta Recreation Centre while lacrosse used the leisure centre, will now be able to move to Ladner by Aug. 8.

A staff report to the parks, recreation and culture commission indicated the Giants' desire to relocate the hockey school to the leisure centre was the impetus behind the move.

The report noted the leisure centre is already the Giants' main training facility and the team holds its training camp there in the third week of August, but wishes to have all its preseason camps there.

"However, since opening the facility in 2006 they have not been able to do so as there has been uncertainty around the Pioneers' playoff schedule. Once the Pioneers conclude their playoff run staff require an additional seven to 10 days to clean the surface, refrigerate the slab, paint the lines and make suitable ice for hockey," states the report.

According to the report, the South Delta Recreation Centre then remains "underutilized" when Ladner becomes available by the third week of August, making the arrangement for the past six years "neither desirable nor practical for the Giants and the municipality."

Representatives of the Giants met with civic staff in December to discuss the possibility of securing ice at Ladner to centralize operations and eliminate logistical challenges.

However, Giants' owner Ron Toigo told the Optimist that while having the ice in Ladner works out best for them, it wasn't the Giants that told the municipality they wanted to secure it by early August. He noted his organization approached the municipality simply asking for a guaranteed location for ice because it seems every year there's much uncertainty.

"At the end of the day, they're required to give us ice time. I guess from an efficiency perspective, they're making ice in other places that displaced other people. After they did their calculation on what made the most sense, from an efficiency perspective, this is what made the most sense," Toigo said.

In 2005, Delta council approved a deal that would see the Giants move their training facility from a private rink to the leisure centre. In exchange, the team would pay a big chunk of the bill for an expansion at the leisure centre.

At the time, dry floor user groups were upset about an element of the deal that gave the hockey team exclusive time at the arena. At a special meeting, representatives from the local sports groups, the Giants, Delta staff and council members worked out a compromise. A letter of understanding was then signed that stated the dry floor groups would be able to use the leisure centre until Aug. 15.

The recent report to the commission describes the letter as a "gesture of goodwill" to the Pioneers.

The issue was discussed at Delta council last Monday, where John Burr with the Pioneers said they would never have signed the agreement knowing it could have been tossed aside at any time.

"We don't think Delta has negotiated in good faith," he told council.

He also noted they had a 3,000-name petition ready to present to oppose the leisure centre construction deal, but then the agreement had been reached with the user groups and everyone was satisfied.

Parks and recreation director Ken Kuntz said no Delta sports group is legally guaranteed a venue when it comes to playoff dates.

He described the letter of understanding as "impractical since day one." He also said it was "not a responsible use of the facility."