Oak Bay pays off its share of Victoria arena

Oak Bay’s days of paying for Victoria’s Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre are done, but it remains the only municipality in the region to meet its commitment to the arena in full.

Every year since 2004, Oak Bay has been cutting a cheque to Victoria for $17,798 — calculated at about $1 a resident based on the 2001 census — to help offset Victoria’s arena debt-servicing costs.

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This week, Oak Bay staff reported that enough money has been sent, and Oak Bay councillors agreed.

“We reviewed our original agreement, which was to pay approximately $170,000 over 10 years,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.

“Having completed that agreement, we were satisfied that we had assisted sufficiently with the regional facility that the City of Victoria built.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps thanked the mayor and council for living up to their commitment. “It’s a regional facility and I think it’s important that we act as partners to other municipalities in the region to support regional facilities.”

Jensen believes the money was well spent.

“I know many residents in Oak Bay use it,” he said, citing his own plans to watch a Royals hockey game there this week.

“It is an important facility. It is an important place to go see cultural and sporting events for all of us in the region, not just Victorians.”

The obligation dates back to about 2002. In the run-up to construction of the arena, then Victoria mayor Alan Lowe and then councillor David McLean went to area municipalities looking for financial support. At the time, Victoria had entered negotiations with R.G. Properties of Vancouver to build and operate the $28-million, 7,500-seat complex and was trying to build support.

Four municipalities jumped on board. Saanich pledged $1.82 million over 10 years. Esquimalt, View Royal and Oak Bay each pledged $1 per resident per year for 10 years. That translated into about $170,000 from Esquimalt, $80,000 from View Royal and $180,000 from Oak Bay.

According to Victoria records, Saanich ended up paying $452,666 of the $1.8 million pledged. (Saanich paid a partial amount of $101,666 for 2005 and the full amount of $122,000 in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, Saanich reduced the grant by $15,000, as it gave a grant to the Greater Victoria Curling Facility Project. In 2009, it stopped paying.)

Esquimalt, which originally promised to contribute if the project went ahead, never made good. After initially endorsing the idea, Esquimalt later rescinded its resolution in favour of one calling on Victoria to make a formal grant application if it wanted the money. No formal grant request was ever received.

View Royal paid $8,000 a year from 2005 to 2012 for a total of $64,000.

Oak Bay paid the full $17,798 annually for 10 years.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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